Rising Sun is the debut album by Munich-based pianist and composer Shuteen Erdenebaatar now available on all platforms. At just 25, this nascent star from Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, is leading three world class ensembles and has accumulated an impressive array of important prizes for young musicians on the European jazz scene including the Kurt Maas Jazz Award, the Music Scholarship of the City of Munich, the Young Munich Jazz Prize, the Biberach Jazz Prize, and the BMW Young Artist Jazz Award. With this momentum, Shuteen leads her impressive and dedicated young quartet, a German cadre of fellow players from her university cohort, with whom she had these pieces in mind when composing and arranging the eight that appear on the album. They are bassist Nils Kugelmann, drummer Valentin Renner, two of Germany’s brightest on their respective instruments, and the highly virtuosic and especially impressive to this writer, Anton Mangold on soprano and alto saxophones and flute.
The daughter of Batkhuyag Ochirbat, a television director and journalist, and Erdenebaatar Gombo, who recently earned the title “The Emeritus of Art” for his 40 years as director of the National Mongolian Opera, Shuteen was brought up surrounded by arts and culture – particularly classical music. Accordingly, she studied classical piano and classical composition at the State Conservatory of Ulaanbaatar before encountering jazz through a program at the Goethe Institute. With her bachelor’s degree in hand at age 20, she yearned to explore the world of jazz, but there were no jazz programs in Mongolia at the time, prompting her to study at the conservatory in Munich where she earned her master’s degrees in jazz performance and composition, and began to develop her own vision.
Several have dropped as singles and the entire album is now fully available beginning with the lyrical “Time Warp” with Mangold on invigorating soprano, bearing, as the album does throughout, Shuteen’s classical foundation, structured compositions, and finesse on the keys. “Ups And Downs” carries an intricately challenging rhythm with Mangold bursting out aflame, followed by Shuteen and drummer Renner shaping a rhythmic labyrinth through which Mangold waltzes through with the joy of a rapid-fire bopper. Renner then eases off the accelerator just briefly, conjuring the start-top rhythm that signals the exit. We are then treated to a jolting change, the calm of Shuteen delivering the dramatic solo piece “Summer Haze.” The wistful, yearning “Olden Days” follows with Mangold fluidly on alto and Shuteen playing deliberately and almost minimally.
In yet another bit of artful sequencing, the quartet delivers the melodic flute driven “An Answer From A Distant Hill,” which proves without doubt that Mangold emits his signature emblazoned arpeggios regardless of the instrument. Shuteen’s displays her command of dynamics in her solo before leading the quartet into yet more new territory on the bluesy title track based on a Mongolian folk song, where Mangold returns to alto and remains there through the concluding two tracks. Bassist Kugelmann’s arco lines lead into the emotive ballad “Saudade” with Mangold floating and flurrying above Shuteen’s judiciously authored notes and chords and the bassist proves equally adept in his pizzicato run. The closing love song “I’m Glad I Got To Know You” begins tenderly but morphs into fully expressive statements from each member.
Contrary to usual conventions, the quartet performed these compositions live for five consecutive nights before heading later into the studio to record. Maybe it was that experience that gives this album a soulful emotional component that’s lacking from other debuts of this nature. The label, Motéma, informs us that we will soon hear more from Shuteen in two different configurations – her “Lightville” duo and Chamber Jazz Orchestra. She’s made quite the grand entrance here so those surely hold promise as well.
- Jim Hynes
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