As a Malaysian-Chinese musician who grew up in Australia and plays American jazz music, bassist Linda Oh crosses many cultural boundaries in her music.
After recently performing at the Earshot Jazz Festival with the Dave Douglas Quintet, Oh returns to Seattle on March 30 as the leader of her own quartet.
“I’m super excited to be able to play my own music and this band is great,” Oh said.
In her upcoming concert at the Seattle Art Museum, Oh plans to perform selections from her newest album, Sun Pictures, which is comprised entirely of original music. The album was recorded live with a quartet at WKCR in New York City. It is named after the oldest working cinema in Broome, Australia, where one of her sisters lives. She noted that a lot of the tunes on the album were written while she was on the road for the last few years.
“Some [songs] kind of reflect that,” Oh said. She also plans to perform a few new songs that she has been working on.
The songs on her second album, Initial Here, were inspired by her heritage, including one song written in half Mandarin and half English.
Oh recently visited her grandmother in Shanghai, connecting with her roots for the first time since she was a child. Oh, who is 29 now, was three years old when she moved to Perth, Australia.
“There were several reasons why my family moved to Perth,” Oh said. “At the time, there was a mandatory retirement age. So, for my parents, it enabled them to keep working. Other reasons included better education and less discrimination. At the time there were some tensions against Chinese in Malaysia.”
At the age of four, soon after her move to Perth, Oh began taking classical piano lessons. Then, she gradually moved onto various wind instruments, including the clarinet at age 11 and the bassoon at age 13 (which she studied seriously through high school). It was at age 15, during high school, that Oh dabbled with the electric bass and started playing it in high school and community big bands.
“I started exploring jazz in high school,” Oh said. “My main focus at the time was bassoon, though it was lucky enough to be involved in the school jazz band as well as jazz programs outside of school. … I also played bassoon in the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra and had lots of opportunities to see the local jazz musicians play.”
Listening to the music of Miles Davis, Ray Brown, and Jaco Pastorius initially inspired her, Oh said. In 2002, she started taking lessons on the double bass at the Western Australia Academy of the Performing Arts.
“I enjoy the sound. I enjoy the role of it,” Oh said of the bass, adding that it is a very versatile instrument that elevates the music in a different way. “There’s a lot you can do dynamically, and in terms of tambour and feel.”
Local artist Samantha Boshnack and her band will perform as the opening act at the upcoming concert at the Seattle Art Museum.
“There are so many great musicians in Seattle,” Oh said.
Oh currently makes her home in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where she’s lived since completing her Masters at the Manhattan School of Music. She has also performed with such artists as Steve Wilson, Kenny Barron, Dave Douglas, Kevin Hayes and Cyrus Chestnut.
Linda Oh performs on March 30 at 7:30 pm at the Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium, 1300 First Ave. Tickets are $18. All ages welcome. For tickets, call 206-547-6763 or visit earshot.org.