Jihye Lee Quintet to dedicate live performance at Flushing Town Hall to anti-Asian hate crime victims

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New York-based jazz composer and band leader Jihye Lee will perform live from the stage at Flushing Town for an all-virtual audience. (Photo by Hyemi Kim)

For Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Flushing Town Hall is presenting a special concert honoring the victims of recent anti-Asian hate crimes. 

On Friday, May 21, New York-based jazz composer and band leader Jihye Lee will perform live from the stage at Flushing Town for an all-virtual audience. The livestream event honors AAPI Month and includes a special dedication to the women who were killed in the Atlanta, GA, spa shootings in March. The concert, “Rest in the Arms of Motherlands,” will feature Lee’s original compositions, as well as her arrangements of well-known songs. The quintet features Lee’s vocals alongside Hayoung Lyou (keys), Haeun Joo (piano), Jeonglim Yang (bass) and Dayeon Seok (drums).

“Among the eight victims of the recent tragedy in Atlanta, six of them were Asian women, including four Koreans — immigrants who courageously came to America for better lives. They innocently got killed, and left their loved ones behind,” Lee said. “Motherland was the word that came to my mind. After many struggles and defeats, burdened lives are resting now. The souls are comforted in the loving arms of their motherlands.”

Ellen Kodadek, executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall, said they’re responding to the recent rise in hate crimes as best as they know how — through the arts. 

“Our mission is to bring people together by presenting arts and culture from around the world. The Atlanta killings were widely understood to be driven by racism and misogyny,” Kodadek said. “We are proud to present Jihye Lee’s all-female, Korean jazz quintet to share their message and music with our diverse audience. Flushing Town Hall will continue to bring people together through the arts and ensure that artists of all backgrounds and traditions have a home on our stage.” 

Flushing Town Hall’s event will be presented free of charge with a suggested, pay-what-you-can donation. According to Kodadek, 50 percent of the funds raised will support the nonprofit, global arts presenter, and 50 percent will be donated to the Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) in support of their Rainbow House Shelter, which provides comprehensive and culturally-competent services to women and children in crisis. 

Jeehae Fischer, executive director of KAFSC, said they are grateful to Flushing Town Hall and the Jihye Lee Quintet for providing a space to honor the victims in the Atlanta shooting, while also highlighting the rise of anti-Asian violence and attacks against Asian Americans, particularly against the elderly and women, calling it “unacceptable and alarming.” 

“While COVID-19 has affected us all, Asians and Asian Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the ongoing public health and economic crises. These unwarranted hate crimes against the members of our community add another layer of trauma for a people — especially the elderly among them — who already carry intergenerational trauma from collective histories of war, oppression and uprootedness,” Fischer said. “KAFSC is the Chinjung (Mother’s home) for hundreds of immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse that KAFSC serves every year. We join Flushing Town Hall, the Jihye Lee Quintet, and all the viewers in dedicating this performance to all those lost in recent tragedies. May they rest in power.”

Lee is highly regarded for her personal and adventurous storytelling approach to large-ensemble jazz. The Village Voice praised her first album, “April,” for its “chamber-like textures, involving harmony and sectional counterpoint, and persistent rhythmic drive.” Her 2021 release, “Daring Mind” (on Motema Music), was produced by the innovative composer and Secret Society bandleader Darcy James Argue, with renowned trumpeter Sean Jones appearing as a special guest. It presents compositions from Lee’s Mind Series, including her BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize-winning “Unshakable Mind.” The music reflects her struggles, doubts and hopes while living in the amazing city of New York.

A native of South Korea, Lee had no jazz or classical training growing up, though she found success in Korea performing as an indie pop singer. She discovered her love of large-ensemble jazz only after beginning her studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2011. After Berklee, she moved to New York in 2015 and earned a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of the great Jim McNeely.

In addition to the BMI Foundation’s Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize and Manny Albam Commission in 2018, Lee has received the 2020 ASCAP Foundation/Symphonic Jazz Orchestra Commissioning Prize. She has written music for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as well as Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz.