Photo by Emra Islek
Steph Chou’s Prime Knot is as impressive a musical debut as it is intellectually challenging - a project born from the notion that the pristine beauty of pure mathematics (Chou’s primary area of study at Columbia University) can reflect and inform the immutability of musical inspiration. Using a simple Chinese melody as a recurring theme, Chou constructs an album packed with smart, hip arrangements, played with lively precision and marked confidence. It says a lot that she was to recruit such a talented group of players to help her bring her music to life - pianist Jeremy Siskind, trumpeter Marcus Printup, and drummer Ronen Itzik especially. It says even more that Prime Knot is her first effort - an unlikely treasure from a relative unknown that can stand next to most recent jazz releases.
Stephanie Chou is a genuine triple-threat in the music business. A multi-instrumentalist, she plays alto saxophone and piano at the level of virtuosity, and also sings in an expressive, highly personable manner with a wide range. Chou’s work challenges expectations and defies categorization, but its brilliance in terms of conceptualization and performance makes the music compelling and wholly enjoyable listening. The emotions in her soundscapes are real threads of the human drama.Simply exquisite, the instrumentalists and Chou’s vocals [are] placed perfectly in the arrangements to create an unmistakable mood.