"For many artists, 2020 was a year that will go down in creative history, from the detailed accounts of protest movements to the criticism of those in power and those who seek to react with hatred and anger to moments of peace and unity. Jordan VanHemert’s work on this record cannot be understated, from conception to navigating COVID restrictions in rehearsals and recording. It’s an album that feels like a collective experience, with every artist cathartically enjoying the normalcy and joy that comes from making music during these challenging times. Cultures are celebrated, musicianship is expressed in full display, and the voices of the disenfranchised are heard through everyone’s artistry on this record. If you need an introduction to Jordan’s work or if you’re looking to add a great Michigan art piece to your collection that reflects this past year, you owe it to yourself to check out this record!"
- Dutcher Snedeker (Read the full review HERE)
I Am Not a Virus is filled with VanHemert pushing himself as a writer, performer, and leader. The inspiration behind each song is a bit of a story of VanHemert’s musical retort to racism and the unjust hostility toward Asian-Americans amid a global pandemic. The music flows like a healthy cathartic act from VanHemert and comes across as creative, grounded, and strikingly passionate.
-Stamish Malcuss, Jazz Sensibilities
The craft is tight, the feeling is refreshing, the sound is quick and precise, and the gestalt brings the individual voices of the musicians into group form, taking turns soloing and working together, interpreting the now into the fabric of the groove. The album covers a full range of expressive energy.
-Robin James, All About Jazz
Although the album's title is a heady condemnation of the xenophobic violence all too prevalent at the moment, VanHemert's music is far from preachy or even angry. Instead, its reflective nature seams to speak in healing and optimistic terms.
VanHemert offers a guiding light in "The Path Ahead," a floating structure that settles in with a commanding piano statement from Lisa Sung. It's open and hypnotic format recalls similar forays by the late Kenny Wheeler. As a coy finish, a bass vamp allows drummer Andy Wheelock to spin his own tale before the reprise of the opening melody. Equally beguiling is the waltz tempo of "Autumn Song," which finds VanHemert's tenor at the forefront. Refreshingly free of clichés, Jordan's tone is firm and flexible and his lines resolve in creative, yet logical ways.
- C. Andrew Hovan, All About Jazz
With his upcoming new record, “I Am Not a Virus,” jazz saxophonist and Hope College professor Dr. Jordan VanHemert has crafted an artistic statement to combat the discrimination he has faced. With a skilled ensemble of mutual friends, musicians and academics, this album serves as a creative outlet to heal painful wounds and to champion multiple cultures. Tracks like “Justice for the Unarmed (BLM)” distill the raw emotions within the BLM protest movement into a musical, whereas “아리랑 Arirang” takes a Korean folk melody and filters it through the jazz lexicon for a completely unique listening experience.
Local Spins (Grand Rapids)
Halfway though, “Justice For The Unarmed (Black Lives Matter)” is a bright and energetic display of timeless jazz sounds, while “The Moment” moves cautiously, sublimely and with much emotion in its reflective, stirring nature. Near the end, “Arirang Interlude” is brief but impactful 90 seconds of a Korean traditional arranged by Vanhemert, and this leads into “Arirang”, which exits the listen with each instrument taking its turn in the spotlight, as the very talented players interact with much chemistry to produce a precisely textured finish. VanHemert’s work is both atypical and universally enjoyable here, where his keen attention to melody and Korean heritage all make for a very topical and exciting listening experience.
"The work covers a wide range of expressions. "Sea of Tranquility" opens with a catchy melody where the sax blends with the piano, and then leaves room for the interventions of the other musicians.
In "Autumn Song" the long solo of trumpeter Rob Smith stands out, as well as that of the bandleader, who flows effortlessly at a waltz tempo. "Justice for the Unarmed (Black Lives Matter)", characterized by a beautiful melody, is a tribute to the African-American anti-racist movement that has gained a strong media visibility in recent years.
The concluding "Arirang," divided into two parts, is a tastefully rearranged Korean traditional song. With this homage to the culture of origin, VanHemert emphasizes an adherence to identity that is often diluted in the generic and indistinct category of "Americans," as if the inhabitants of the United States were a homogeneous community.
Music, as we know, has always been closely connected to the political and social issues of its time. I Am Not A Virus is one of the most recent and sincere expressions of this union that is constantly renewed without geographical or cultural limits."
From: Music Master
Another face of American racism
by Alessandro Michelucci
Cultura Commestibile (415), pg. 15 (translated)
French - JazzMania Magazine (Belgium)
Catalan - Sonograma Magazine (Barcelona, Spain)
Italian - Cultura Commestibile Issue 415, Pg. 15 (Florence, Italy)