Linda Oh: putting down a bass root in New York jazz

New York City: iconic cityscapes, magical tapestries of humanity and for the past 11 years home to Linda Oh, an exciting double bassist and composer currently living the jazz artist’s dream. “Sometimes I can’t believe this is my home,” she says, “Playing gigs at the Village Vanguard with the history of recordings created there? It’s unreal.”

While being raised in a Malaysian-Chinese household taught Linda discipline and awareness, it’s the down-to-earth, honest aspect of her Australian upbringing that keeps her grounded. As is true for many artists, those first, defining experiences continue to influence the way she creates music. “I’m grateful for that part of my life,” she says, “My creativity wouldn’t be as defined or developed otherwise.”

Linda progressed to the upright bass after a high-school stint on electric bass, but the real turning point in her transition came after hearing Ray Brown on Oscar Peterson’s Night Train. Something shifted in her soul, and while she hasn’t forsaken the electric bass, bassoon and piano she played as a child, it’s the double bass that’s become her true north.

While her own calendar is jammed with album productions and performances, she speaks highly of her peers and collaborators, including janggu drummer Minji Park and Kenyan film-makers Bena Wandei and Kizito Gamba. Her most glowing praise is reserved for her life partner, pianist Fabian Almazan: “Even after 11 years together, he still says profound things and plays music that blows my mind.”

So what must it be like for a young double bassist in one of the world’s jazz meccas? Besides the joys of dragging the bass through the subway at rush hour, Linda’s having a pretty good time. “There is such a high level of music and art here, along with many challenges for working musicians,” she says, “I’m grateful for the people who come to see my music being performed, and for being able to give something of myself that’s genuine and moving.”

(Photo: Linda Oh website)

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