Nah Youn-sun: Building a Korean Jazz Wave?

      October 21, 2008 08:07

      Nah Youn-sun

      In all the years since I became a fan of Jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun, I have never been able to quite find the right word that describes the quality of her voice. After listening to her five albums and listening to and watching her live concerts, all I could come up with was something like "clear," "clean," "accurate pitch." But recently, I heard the perfect word from world renowned guitarist Ulf Wakenius (50), who recently worked with Nah. He called her voice "tight."

      Nah (39) signed a contract with famous German jazz label based ACT, and plans to release her album, "Voyage," in 38 countries including Europe, Japan and the United States. Korea was the first port of call. The album will be internationally released in February next year. The music is mainly based on Wakenius's guitar accompaniment and Nah's vocals; for music that requires a more extensive musical language, we will have to turn elsewhere.

      "Ulf says so many good things about me that I am now all red in the face," said Nah. In a showcase on Oct. 8 in Seoul, Wakenius praised her a great deal, saying her countrymen should feel proud of being Korean like Nah. Wakenius has played with such greats as pianist Oscar Peterson, who died last year.

      "I met Ulf for the first time in Denmark and we performed together in Seoul last week. After the concert was over," Ulf said, 'We have to record this. We’ll be a killing duo.'" Since her debut, Nah worked and perform with a quintet. This year, she struck a new partnership because she wanted to try new things. "Small conflicts between me and the quintet members also contributed to the current situation because not all members were happy when I declined a seven-year deal from the Blue Note label in 2006," she recalls.

      "I don't like the idea of belonging to any organization for seven years. If I had signed that contract, I would have lost my freedom. Becoming a popular figure under the industrial logic is not my thing."

      Releasing her album in Japan means a lot to her, as Japan is the world's No. 1 consumer of jazz music. "I look forward to meeting Japanese audiences because they are usually in their 40s or 50s, just like in Europe. I think it will be a good place to play music," she says politely. Perhaps there is a new Korean Wave in the offing.

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