"...exuding a palpable joy"
Dan McClenaghan wrote up The Sustain of Memory with a 4.5 star review at All About Jazz. Read the full review here (text below):
Review of The Sustain of Memory
All About Jazz
by Dan McClenaghan
April 6, 2020
Ambition is good. Saxophonist Kevin Sun has it. He proves it by releasing—before attaining his thirtieth birthday--The Sustain of Memory, a cinematic two-disc set of atmospheric avant-garde music in trio, quartet and quintet settings, which maintains a start-to-finish focus of an expansive artistic vision.
"I've always been drawn to sprawling, encyclopedic or maximalist works of art," Sun says. And he has produced an excellent and beautiful example of the genre. The music is divided into three "suites": the six part "The Middle Of Tensions," the eleven section "Circle Lines," and the highlight, the forty-eight-minute, three-part "The Rigors Of Love," which takes up the entire second disc.
The cryptic titling of the pieces and Andrew Katzenstein's off-kilter but erudite and insightful liner notes—which may require multiple readings, just as the music demands multiple listenings—suggest a cerebralism to the sounds. Perhaps. But Part III of "The Rigors Of Love" (a quintet offering), which begins in a somber mood, evolves into a smile-inducing swing, as lovely as anything coming from a more mainstream frame of mind, featuring a liquid weaving of Sun's sax and Adam O'Farrill's trumpet lines, accompanied by Dana Saul's austere piano sparkle. At twenty-five minutes in length, the tune goes through several more evolutions: a segment of O'Farrill blowing brassy and bold, with Sun going to a deep, Ben Webster tone; then a shift (Sun on clarinet) to a twilight stealth mode, the rhythm section whispering then stepping back to bright daylight (Sun switching back to sax), the band exuding a palpable joy.
"The Middle Of Tensions," a quartet section, opens disc one. The Part 1 arrangement and Dana Saul's quirky, searching piano work bring pianist Andrew Hill to mind—avant-garde sounds that keep a tentative connection to the straight ahead. With Part II the word "kaleidoscopic" comes to mind, with continually shifting rhythms, piano scurryings, the typewriter tick-tack of Matt Honor's drum sticks.
"Cable Lines" is a trio affair—sax, bass and drums—making for a sparer sound than the other sections of the set. Presented in trio, duo and solo segments, the twelve short vignettes serve as distillations of Sun's borderless musical world view.
So: The Sustain Of Melody: Ambitious? Yes, successfully so. Excellent in concept and execution? Yes, that too.