An ensemble of omnivorous tastes and collective intention, Mute—featuring saxophonist Kevin Sun, pianist Christian Li, bassist Lim Yang, and drummer Dayeon Seok—began playing together in the summer of 2017. According to Kevin Sun, “We all knew each other separately in New York, but I’d credit Dayeon with having the vision to assemble us in one place and make music together.” Though the musicians all call Brooklyn home, much of their musical development has come on bandstands far away from the borough. “After joking during our first gig about how great it would be for Dayeon and Lim to play in China and me and Christian to get to play in South Korea, we decided to book a tour for the winter.” Below, check out the band’s performance of Christian Li’s composition “Follow the Leader,” recorded at Formtec Works Hall in Seoul.
“That trip helped us explore and refine the approach of the band,” writes Sun, “which is on the looser side and allows for spacious, relatively unconstrained improvising while also favoring varied song forms. Everybody in the band writes for the band, and I find that, for myself, this quartet is an opportunity to bring in compositions that will be radically interpreted and extended beyond their starting point or what I have in mind.”
All four musicians are involved in numerous other bands and projects, making it difficult to schedule rehearsal time. But the band approaches this as a feature of their practice, rather than a bug. “We’re kind of a ‘last-minute’ band,” says Sun, “but I think that drives us toward spontaneity and risk. We played last month at Barbes, and I remember speaking with Dayeon and Lim afterward about how easy it felt to just jump right back in; no rehearsal, Christian made it to the gig 15 minutes before it was supposed to start (was teaching lessons in Boston), and yet I felt like we’d just resumed where we stopped on the last tune of the previous gig.”
This Wednesday, August 8, Mute will make their debut at The Jazz Gallery, picking up where they left off from that July Barbes gig. The show is a warmup for an upcoming recording session, where the band will put together their first album. Sun writes that “we’re recording largely the material that’s been in the book since we started and toured in the winter, and then we’ll see about the next iteration of the band book.” That kind of open-ended road ahead suits the group just fine, according to Sun. “There’s a lot of humility and humor in the band, and I think that lack of ego enables both chaos and moments of startling group cohesion.”
Mute plays The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. The group features Kevin Sun on C melody saxophone and clarinet, Christian Li on piano, Lim Yang on bass, and Dayeon Seok on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission ($10 for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($15 for members) for each set. FREE for SummerPass holders. Purchase tickets here.