FOR TRAIN OF THOUGHT (2017)
"Pianist Min Rager, who was raised in Seoul, South Korea, moved to Montreal in 1997 and has been part of the Canadian jazz scene since. In 2005, Rager recorded her debut, Bright Road (Effendi), with her quintet. She mostly has led her own trio since then, taking some time off to raise her two sons.
On Train Of Thought, Rager has teamed with Fraser Hollins and Dave Laing (her regular bassist and drummer, respectively), as well as tenor saxophonist Kenji Omae, who recently returned to Canada after spending a decade in South Korea.
After its complex melody, the opening “Train Of Thought” becomes a cooking medium-tempo blues. Omae’s tenor sometimes recalls Ernie Watts in its upper-register cries. His technique is impressive, and his sound falls squarely within the John Coltrane/ Michael Brecker tradition. “Beautiful Journey” is picturesque and offers long melody statements and patterns established by the date’s leader. “I Never Felt That Way” and the high-energy “Say What You Mean” (based on Wayne Shorter’s “Yes Or No”) feature passionate Omae solos and inventive, yet subtle, statements from Rager.
Although none of these songs are destined to become standards, they serve as fertile foundations for the soloists. With fine support and occasional short spots from Hollins and Laing, Rager displays plenty of potential as an improviser, consistently creating fresh statements"
Downbeat Magazine (March 2018)
"Train of Thought consists of eight Rager compositions that reflect her thorough grounding in jazz-tradition fundamentals and love of lyrical, natural melodies set to classy, unfurling harmonies."
Ottawa Citizen JazzBlog
"...a spirited ride that rolls along just a bit left of center from the mainstream with an edge of modernity and a boxcar full of originality."
FOR PAST RELEASES
"She has been called an outstandingly gifted young jazz pianist - what an understatement! You don't often see the talent of this caliber in a performer so young. The integrity of their music is felt in every track... Smooth sax and trumpet, driving bass, and rhythmic drums only serve to complement the magical piano that you hear on this CD. Listening to this quartet of fine musicians makes one see just how much the world of piano jazz and instrumental groups has evolved to a seriously fine art."
"...some of 2005's best and/or most interesting CD releases...
Canadian pianist Min Rager may not yet have name cache, but if she keeps generating all-aces, Cannonball Adderley-like (early 60s/Joe Zawinul-era), earthy hard bop such as one may hear on her fine debut album Bright Road (Effendi), she will not only be a hip name to drop, but she may the new Sonny Clark."
"The tunes contained on BRIGHT ROAD are strong playing vehicles indeed, all of which are penned by the leader, Korean -born pianist Min Rager. Crafting music with a sound knowledge of jazz idiom, this"rising star" has an ideal foil in trumpeter Kevin Dean, a player who makes the tunes come alive, especially the closer Romanticism. The mainly hard-boppish grooves and heads are fueled by a reverence from past masters, yet there is as much passion as academic rigor. The front line, including tenorman Donny Kennedy, is full-fledged, right from the opener Devil Heart, where the saxman negotiates all the tunes with expertise of a Hank Mobley. Bassman Kieran Overs nails down the changes with precision while drummer Andre White boots things along. Rager, not the least, provides the compositions and a Horace Silver-like percussive approach on the faster tunes, with some introspective Bill Evanisms on the ballads that will simply carry you offer to a nice listening experience."
La Scena Musicale
"Blessed with the gift of melody, Min Rager has created an album of original compositions full of smiles, hope, laughter, and just plain great listening. The Korean native is now completing her master's degree at McGill University in Canada; Bright Road is her debut on record. The sound created by the quintet is huge, which can only be explained by the sharp arranging of the trumpet and alto sax, and how Rager herself comps and solos on piano behind them.
This is jazz from the mainstream that is anything but flabby or shallow. What you hear is what you get, but the music is so uplifting, so right there it inspires and refreshes. There is no listener fatigue, despite the fact that the music is so up. Look not here for quirkiness or out playing, but rather for music making that soothes the soul while simultaneously engaging the mind in many different ways."
All About Jazz