Linda May Han Oh
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About Linda May Han Oh
Linda May Han Oh (aka Linda Oh) is an in-demand double and electric bassist, bandleader, recording artist, and composer who lives in New York City.
The youngest of three girls, Oh was born in Malaysia to parents of Chinese descent who emigrated to Perth, Western Australia, where she was raised. She began playing piano before moving first to bassoon and then to electric bass. Her older sisters went on to become doctors and her parents were pleased. They were less than thrilled when she informed them she wanted to become a jazz musician. Nonetheless, they supported her decision. In 2002, she began playing the upright acoustic contrabass at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts, where she graduated with first-class honors. In 2003, Oh was a James Morrison Scholarship Finalist, and a year later, an International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Sister in Jazz. In 2006, moved to New York and two years later won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award. She completed a Master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 2008, where she studied with Jay Anderson, John Riley, Phil Markowitz, Dave Liebman, and Rodney Jones. The same year, she played on Jon Irabagon's Outright album. In 2009, she issued her debut offering, Entry, leading a trio with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Obed Calvaire. The recording received accolades from NPR and various other outlets. Oh gigged whenever she could, leading her own bands and appearing with others. Over the next couple of years, she recorded with Thomas Barber's Janus Bloc, Sarah Manning, Bastian Weinhold, and others. She also began going to a gym to build up her arm strength on the double bass. The reason? She played too many clubs where she could not mike her bass. The result was a change in tone and physicality in her command and phrasing.
In 2010 she received the Jazz Journalist's Award for Up-and-Coming Artist of the Year, and received the award of No. 1 Acoustic Bass Rising Star in the Downbeat Critic’s Poll and took second place at the BASS2010 Competition in Berlin. In 2011, Oh made the first of her recordings with the Dave Douglas Quintet and Fabian Almazan Trio. Douglas' Greenleaf Music label released her sophomore recording, Initial Here, in 2012 with Almazan, drummer Rudy Royston, and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. Oh continued working live and in the studio with the Douglas and Almazan bands, as well as with saxophonist Jim Snidero on 2013's Stream of Consciousness. Her own Sun Pictures, featuring drummer Ted Poor, guitarist James Muller, and saxophonist Ben Wendel, was released the same year on Greenleaf Music and acclaimed as the work of a young master.
Oh branched out, working across the jazz spectrum both live and on recordings from Michael Dease and Greg Osby to Joe Lovano and Kenny Barron; from Chris Dingman and Melissa Stylianou to Avishai and Anat Cohen. She appeared on Terri Lynne Carrington's 2015 widely celebrated The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul. She also appeared with Douglas and Lovano at the Monterey Jazz Festival, a recording of which was released on Blue Note as Sound Prints. She played on Art Hirahara's Libations & Meditations and marimba master Gwendolyn Dease's Beguiled (alongside bassist Rodney Whitaker) the following year. Oh released her fourth album, Walk Against Wind (her first using her full name, Linda May Han Oh) in 2017 on the innovative Biophilia label, whose signature is offering gorgeous, 20-paneled digipacks and digital download files in a variety of formats — without discs, everything is recyclable. Oh played electric and double bass and sang; her sidemen were Almazan, Wendel, and percussionist Minji Park, with guitarist Matthew Stevens and drummer Justin Brown guesting on a track each. The album was universally celebrated, prompting a critically acclaimed tour. The record also placed at number 22 on the jazz charts. (This is especially noteworthy for a jazz album whose contents could only be digitally downloaded.) In addition to playing dates with her own band, Oh joined guitarist Pat Metheny's new quartet with drummer Antonio Sanchez and pianist Gwilym Simcock. Metheny, who has a long history of playing with some of the greatest bassists in the genre, told Jazz Times: "She has all the things you want: great time, a really big and yet dynamic sound, a fantastic harmonic sense and real facility on the instrument...She has an indescribable presence in the music that is really hard to find. She owns the space around the notes she plays in ways that really add up to something more than the notes and sounds. There is a transcendent thing happening there that is really what makes music music." With that effusive praise under her belt, Oh made her ECM debut in 2018 on pianist Florian Weber's Lucent Waters, alongside trumpeter Ralph Alessi and drummer Nasheet Waits.