Photo by Emra Islek
Chou is a strong singer with an unadorned mezzo-soprano, a strong saxophonist and a brilliantly individualistic composer who’s shifting the paradigm, blending Chinese themes from over the centuries with jazz, classical and more than a little rock in places... Her music is relevant, and lyrical, and amazingly eclectic...””Chou illustrated Odysseus’ arduous journey home to his true love with Penelope, a haunting, crescendoing backbeat rock ballad fueled by Lin’s aching viola and a spiraling, smoky sax solo. It would have been a huge radio hit for an artsy band like the Alan Parsons Project thirty years ago.””Making Tofu – inspired by a funny proverb about an only slightly less arduous process – a moody jazz waltz with a gorgeous, sternly crescendoing meteor shower of a piano solo and ominously modal sax work. Who knew so much energy was required to make those innocuous little cubes!
…she [Chou] hit upon a novel expression for her sax—and her vocals—by embracing her Chinese heritage and using its musical folk and pop legacy to create a unique blend of traditional Chinese, classical and jazz. She showcased this superbly at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday, March 8 to a full house.” “With her exquisite arrangements, she [Chou] led her quartet, including the standout of the evening string and erhu player Andy Lin…on a rousing and lyrical set focused on her impressive album Asymptote.” “What was so remarkable about Chou’s performance was its tasty diversity of styles....
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.
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.