Track three of Lullaby for my Favorite Insomniac, the latest album from the Ahn Trio, is a piano trio arrangement of “My Funny Valentine;” track sixteen is also “My Funny Valentine,” but this time with electronica beats and Korean rap thrown in. Track eleven is “This is not America” by David Bowie, Pat Metheny, and Jürgen Dahmen; so is track fifteen, but Superdrive calls it “This is America Mix.” There’s also some Susie Suh, Astor Piazzolla, Michael Nyman, and three new pieces by Kenji Bunch. The album is casual, eclectic, and cool–but don’t call it “crossover:” according to the group’s cellist, Maria Ahn, there’s nothing to cross over. Musics have always been mixing one another up.
As Juilliard students, the Ahn sisters regularly attended modern dance performances and enjoyed seeking out work by contemporary composers. It was always mystifying to them that contemporary music was somehow not as popular as contemporary art. A gig with Bryan Adams led to an interest in expanding their collaborative projects to include non-classical musicians. In their recording career, the Ahns have moved from pretty straight-up chamber music work (Ravel, Shostakovich, Dvorak) to concept albums (like the new one) that defy categorization. There is no grand aesthetic statement in all this, Maria says: the intent is only to pursue projects that reflect the music that inspires her and her sisters.
Lullaby for my Favorite Insomniac takes its name from a composition by Bunch, and it was this simple, spare piece, originally for solo piano, that led to the album’s concept. The first twelve tracks are calm, peaceful pieces in the meditative mood established by Bunch, a longtime collaborator. The final four are mixes and remixes of four of the earlier pieces on the album; Maria has long wanted to turn over some of the trio’s work to DJs to see what would happen. As for the rap: it grew out of some fortuitous musical spontaneity during one of the sessions.
Next week, the Ahns head to Prague to rehearse and record an album with Tata Bojs, a Czech alternative group. Then they premiere in Mexico a new piano trio written for them by Pat Metheny (his second for the group). The Ahns are also involved in projects with Nikolai Kapustin, Raul Midón, and Daniel Bernard Roumain (who seems to want to be called “DBR” these days). NYC-area folks can check them out this August at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival.