A Wonderful Flautist And All That Jazz

There are certain words that I have trouble saying without smiling. “Flautist” is one of them. I’m not exactly sure why but to me it sounds vaguely obscene in a way having nothing to do with playing the flute. The performance by Yoon-Chan Kim Friday evening was no laughing matter. But it sure was marvelous. This young man can play the flute; boy can he play the flute. Mr. Kim is a senior at Pomona College and he and dozen or so of his friends put on a flute tour de force.
There were several things abnormally enjoyable about this concert. First was the music. Kim performed Jacques Ibert’s “Concerto for Flute and Orchestra” without an orchestra but with strong piano accompaniment. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 for two flutes and a solo violin, was accompanied by seven other violins, a viola, a cello, a bassoon, a bass and a harpsichord. Finally, Kim and three of his friends played five numbers from Claude Bolling’s “Suite for Flute and Piano Trio.” I’ll have more to say about the music in a minute.
The second abnormally enjoyable thing about the concert was the audience. Mr. Kim clearly has a lot of friends in and out of the music department and they were a wonderfully boisterous lot: hooting and hollering and whistling. Only once was their timing inappropriate. Their appreciation was always spot on.
Of the three pieces, the only one I had heard before or even heard of before was the Bach concerto. This is an amazingly complex piece with a killer violin solo. As the program said,

[T]he concerto is famously acknowledged as one of the most demanding pieces Bach ever wrote for the violin, so much so that some musicians have called it Bach’s fourth violin concerto. Indeed the awesome virtuosity Bach demands from the solo violinist in the outer movements gives credence to such claims.

The violin soloist, Lisa Lam, nailed it. Both Kim and the other flautist, Anatolia Evarkiou-Kahu, more than held up their own parts. The small, mostly student, orchestra that Kim assembled for the piece was outstanding.
In terms of complexity and artistic merit, I suppose the Bach piece was the better of the three. But in terms of sheer enjoyment, Bolling’s suite was the highlight of the evening. The piano trio was a jazz trio with Scott Jespersen at the piano, Paul Foreman on drums and Nelson Bean on the bass. Until this concert, I hadn’t thought of the flute as a jazz instrument. Kim and company’s energetic performance caused me to see the error in my thinking. Next time I hear jazz, I’ll be sure to listening for the flute. I’ll likely be disappointed if I don’t hear it.
Kim, his friends and teachers did themselves proud. What a delightful evening!