In less than a week we will find out who will be the winners at the Korean Music Awards in 2013, but until then we still have a couple of introduction posts to go. Today we’re getting into the world of Korean jazz and crossover as we look at the nominees for Best Jazz Album, Best Crossover Album and Best Jazz & Crossover Performance.
Best Jazz Album
Kang Tae Hwan – 소래화 / 素來花 / Sorefa
Avant-garde free jazz saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan started playing alto saxophone while in his early 20s and half a century later he remains an active musician. In 1978 he launched free jazz group Kang Tae Hwan Trio. His first solo album Korean Free Music came out in 1989 and Kim Tae Hwan’s latest album 소래화 / 素來花 / Sorefa was released in December 2011. It’s to be considered the culmination of his musical journey, with all the unique and special techniques Kim Tae Hwan has acquired over the years.
In addition to being nominated for Best Jazz Album, Sorefa has also gained Kang Tae Hwan a nomination for Best Jazz & Crossover Performance.
Ji Hoon Kim Trio – On Early Style
Amsterdam based jazz pianist Ji Hoon Kim teamed up with jazz bassist Minki Cho and jazz drumer Chang Hoon Lee for Ji Hoon Kim Trio, making the album On Early Style for release in December 2011. With a swing feel and modern approach, the album exhibits both a traditional and contemporary form. It was produced by Ji-Hyun Hong, also schooled in jazz in The Netherlands.
Sunji Lee – Soar
Jazz pianist Sunji Lee released her first album The Swimmer in 2008. Second album Summer Ends followed in 2010 and the same year she participated on the soundtrack for Bravo! Jazz Life that won Best Soundtrack at the 8th Korean Music Awards. In 2011 she won the Best Creativity award at the Jarasum International Jazz Concours and in May 2012 Sunji Lee proceeded to release her third album Soar, filled with hard bop and modern jazz.
Wonsool Lee – Point of Contact
After supporting other jazz musicians, bassist Wonsool Lee released hist first album Point of Contact in January 2012. While he himself played double bass, a total of eight musicians more supported him on various parts of the album. Guitar, piano, bass and drums make up the standard combo, but violin, cello, flute and clarinet too can be heard contributing to a sound that ranges from post-pop to classical chamber music on this contemporary jazz and classical fusion release.
Francesca Han – Ascetic
Pianist Francesca Han began studying jazz in the US in 2004 but returned to South Korea in 2012. In August she released the jazz album Illusion, which she’d recorded together with New York University professors Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Drew Gress on bass. Solo album Ascetic followed in November and takes her closer to her classical roots, including her re-interpretation of Chopin.
In addition to being nominated for Best Jazz Album, Ascetic is also nominated for Best Jazz & Crossover Performance.
Best Crossover Album
Bard – Road to Road
Irish folk band Bard sprung out of crossover band 2nd Moon, that won both Rookie of the Year and Album of the Year for their self-title album debut at the 3rd Korean Music Awards. The first album from Bard came out in 2010 and in May 2012 followed second full-length album Road to Road. With the passion for traditional Irish music still intact, after the initial introduction the band is now re-interpreting their sound also including the occasional cello and gayageum.
Chong Park – Piano Paradiso
Since the album debut in 2001, pianist Chong Park has made a name for himself as an interpreter of Liszt. Not just trained in classical piano, Chong Park has also been known to play a bit of standard jazz, but for his latest album Piano Paradiso, released in October 2012, he’s instead offering romantic new age. While new age piano can often fall into clichés, the KMA selection comittee has found that Chong Park instead offers lively melodies that are both classy and personal.
Jambinai – 차연 (Différance)
The members of Jambinai are all educated in traditional Korean music and have used their talents to create a unique sound. Fusing traditional Korean music with post-rock, Jambinai released a self-titled EP in 2010. After that their style developed in a harder and heavier direction and the trio proceeded to win the Jury Prize at the Hello Rookie finals in 2011. In February 2012 came first full-length album 차연 (Différance) further showcasing the band’s innovative use of their instruments.
Jung Jaeil – Incendies
Jung Jaeil first made a name for himself as the young composer behind the music for computer animated movie Wonderful Days in 2003. The same year he released his first album 눈물꽃, which earned him Rookie of the Year at the very first Korean Music Awards. Several soundtracks later, in 2009 he teamed up with Check Kim for The Methodologies which was nominated for Best Jazz Album and won Best Jazz & Crossover Performance at the Korean Music Awards in 2010. In 2012 Jung Jaeil took on the job as music director for theater play 그을린 사랑 (Incendies) which led to the album Incendies coming out in October. The song titles spell out the sentence “There are truths that can only be revealed when they have been discovered” representing the album’s story from beginning till end.
Timirho – 동화
Timirho is a classical crossover project group led by pianist Kim Jae Hoon. On the first album, released in 2010, Kim Jae Hoon’s piano was joined by a guitar and a recorder. When time came for second full-length album 동화(動話), released in December 2011, his supporting member had changed and the piano could instead be heard alongside clarinet and cello. The album was mastered by Swedish producer Lars Nilsson, who has previously worked with jazz songstress and fourfold KMA winner Youn Sun Nah.
Best Jazz & Crossover Performance
Kang Tae Hwan – 소래화
See Best Jazz Album above.
Kim Chang Hyun – Reverberation / 잔향 / 殘響
Jazz bassist Kim Chang Hyun already won both Performance of the Year and Best Jazz & Crossover Song at the 3rd Korean Music Awards as a member of TriLogue. Since then he’s tried a few other constellations, including a project album released under his name in 2010. His second project album Reverberation was released in August 2012. While Kim Chang Hyun composed the songs and played double bass, for this album Check Kim, who won Best Jazz & Crossover Performance together with Jung Jaeil at KMA 2010 and is nominated in the same category this year, played the drums whereas Hyuck Bang, who won Best Jazz & Crossover Performance at KMA 2011 as part of the Pan Geun Lee Project played guitar.
Check Kim & Jean Oh – ‘나’의 발견
Jazz drummer Check Kim and jazz guitarist Jean Oh have both won Best Jazz & Crossover Performance at the KMAs before: Check Kim together with Jung Jaeil with The Methodologies in 2010, Jean Oh as part of the Pan Geun Lee Project a year later. In 2012 the two teamed up as a duo for free jazz album ‘나’의 발견, released in August, which was recorded during half a day of improvisations.