Before bringing the Linda Oh Quartet out for the Skidmore Jazz Institute’s second major-artist concert, Institute director Todd Coolman told us about meeting Oh a few years before at an educators’ conference, and knowing from that meeting that Oh had what it took to make it big in the genre. “In fact,” he added, “I think her dream is just beginning.” Given that she’s already scored two documentaries and worked with monsters like Dave Douglas and Slide Hampton, it’s safe to say that the Malaysian-born, Australia-raised bass player dreams seriously huge; what’s more, she’s got the skills to make that dream a reality.
Oh opened her all-new-music set with an in-the-clear meditation, making the Ladd Theatre’s acoustics vibrate as she slid the notes on one figure just enough to give it dissonance. We were all completely locked in when Eric McPherson rapped a drum stick against the frame of his high-hat, launching a groove that birthed the complex melody of “Number One Hit.” Reedman Joel Frahm and pianist David Virelles harmonized on the staccato foundation before Frahm took his tenor sax on a lively, bouncing journey. Virelles responded in kind with an off-kilter solo that was completely in keeping with the piece’s fragmented sense. McPherson was keeping it simple by making his job difficult, using all of his kit to merely embellish rather than dominate.