2014 in Review: Day 8 – Jazz and Blues

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[The 2014 in Review Series]

1. Introduction and Best Album Art
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop and Ballad
7. Folk and Country
8. Jazz and Blues
9. Crossover and Other
10. Best Collaborative Work
11. Rookie Artist of the Year
12. Artist of the Year
13. Song of the Year
14. Album of the Year
15. Staff Picks
16. Storylines and Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

And here’s the second new category this year. The old “Jazz, Crossover, and Miscellaneous” category was almost dominated by jazz as is, but the volume of excellent works in the highly consistent Korean jazz scene warranted independence. While there was no clear headliner here like last year, there was still plenty to get excited over in 2014 – particularly the experimental and genre-blending works attempted, some of which are featured below.

Important: same as the last two years, the Album of the Year and Song of the Year (and their runner-ups) are not included in the genre categories. That means that, for example, there could be a jazz album that isn’t being recognized on this page because it’s the album of the year. Also, note that all “Next Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Jazz and Blues Album 2014

Lee Won-sul - Into The Time

Lee Wonsool – Into The Time

Opting to do the vast majority of his own writing this time, contra-bassist Lee Wonsool wrought a tense ten-track opera that ends just as uneasily as it began. Into The Time was a lot less ambitious instrumentally than Point Of Contact (2012); gone, the clever juxtapositions of classical and jazz. The more traditional six-person (sometimes more) ensemble replacing the orchestra have a different task in mind. These pieces aren’t improvised, but do sound foreign, avant-garde, sometimes even free form… and fantastic. Melodies die before they have a chance to develop, instead swallowed up by the inexorable movement of the ensemble, and that’s okay. “Welcome To Life” is perhaps the best example of the chaotic energy and beauty that arises out of the musicians’ bold and sometimes dissonant play. There are also more crystalline moments – ending movements of the two “Retrograde” tracks – but the album sits here because of its intrepid disorder.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Album 2014

Bonam - Bittersweet

Bonam – Bittersweet

Bassists sweep the category this year. Bittersweet has a number of bass guitar solos you won’t hear in many albums, and that’s certainly one draw: lengthy songs like “Fearful” deliver some unique drama and atmosphere on the strength of the instrument featured. But there’s a surprising potpourri of other sounds here. Tracks like “여자의 마음” and “My First Kiss” have a little suave pop-ballad attitude and melody to them, and Gu Bonam even sings a bit. There’s technical prowess and genre-specific moments in “Scholarly Mind” and the improvised “Jam Tracks”. Something halfway between those extremes occupies the ten minutes of “Missing You”. These diverse arrangements and flexible composition helps Bittersweet feel accessible, and it makes the album perhaps the year’s easiest-listening jazz album with plenty of depth to offer still.

The Next Ten Out


Best Jazz and Blues Song 2014

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Youngju (JuJu) Song – Between

There are some songs that you never want to see end. “Between” is like that, so timeless are its expansive atmosphere and vital melody. A slow, methodical intro opens the song as instruments enter in phases, and then the guitar and Song’s piano share the spotlight as they take turns sustaining lengthy melodic parts. The quartet plays a tightly-wound several minutes here, filled with dense piano backing and intricate solos, eventually building to a thrilling climax and denouement. Not quite groundbreaking or surprising, but no matter – it’s dazzling and moving enough.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Song 2014

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Geurida – 상사화 (Magic Lily)

A little unorthodox, I know. This rookie quartet’s debut single is self-described as grounded in jazz but encompassing other genres, and you hear that in “Magic Lily”‘s alternatively bluesy and folksy guitars, pop-like atmosphere and fuzz-tone effector. It’s a cross between dream pop and jazz piano, if that makes sense. Jun Hye-rim’s piano work is impressive, grounding the song’s airiest and most ephemeral section with a breathless performance. “Magic Lily” somehow finds a way to blend two styles that clash in tempo, sound scape and everything in between, and the experiment is a resounding success.

The Next Ten Out

Charlie Jung Band - Sangdo Blues

Charlie Jung Band – 상도 블루스 (Sangdo Blues)

Inplay - Inplay

Inplay – The Chaser

Ji-hoon Kim & Jaejin Ahn - Locutions (A Tribute To Jim Hall)

Ji-hoon Kim & Jaejin Ahn – Why?

JSFA - Season 2 The Return of JSFA

JSFA – Four Jackets

Kitsch Record - Where Is Love

Kitsch Record – 감정기복 (Mood Swings)

Lee Bal-cha - One Pale Afternoon

Lee Bal-cha – One Pale Afternoon

Oh Young-jun - Dear Someone

Oh Young-jun – I Will

Park Dong-hwa White Day - Faddist

Park Dong-hwa White Day – Faddist

Lee Sunji - The Night of the Border

Sunji Lee – Vibe

Young-ae Jung - The Man I Love

Young-ae Jung – YAJ’s Bop

Honorable Mentions


Bomi Choi – Bomi’s Homies
Heeyoung Kim – Love On A Rainy Day
Hyojung Kim – Nuevo Jazz Project
JHG – Bye Bye Boy
Joonghyuk Kim – Joonghyuk Kim’s Bass Chapel
Kim Ju-hwan – Warm Like Love
Lee Jimin – Lasting Fragments
Oh Young-jun – Dear Someone
Park Hyung-keun – Open The Door
Park Sang-yeon – Traces Behind
Shin Yeon-a – Vagabonde
Suhyun Park – Sound Pieces
Taesung Yu – 바람끝 (Wind’s End)
You Young-min – 그 날의 이야기 (Story Of That Day)


Baek Hyun-soo – 소 화이트 (So White)
Bonam – Missing You
Brand Newjiq – Good Night Good Morning
Dulce – 인사동 쌈지길 (Insa-dong Pocket Road)
Electric Planet Five – After Winter
Heeyoung Kim – Love On A Rainy Day
Hyojung Kim – Girl From Ipanema
Jamia – 낡은 인형의 노래 (An Old Doll’s Song)
JANE – Blooming Days
Kim Ju-hwan – Get Out Of Town
Joonghyuk Kim – Fly High (Featuring Sunny Kim)
Lee Hyo-jeong – 상처 난 손가락 (Wounded Finger)
Mihyun Seo – Mischka
Mijin Kim – Pegasus
Park Haa – Hot Sea
Placid Ave. – Love Undone (Featuring Serena Ahn)
Siaena – 이별 (Break-up) Scene (Bossa Version)
Suhyun Park – Ronny FT
Taesung Yu – 바람끝 (Wind’s End)
Trio Closer – Tears For Father
Yang Hee-eun – 나영이네 냉장고 (Na-young’s Fridge) (Featuring Kim Na-young, The Barberettes)
Yang Wangyeul – Multiplication
You Young-min – 언젠가 너에게만은 (To You Someday) (Featuring Cho Jung-hee)

Sources: Photos – Geurida and album covers from Daum Music; Videos – YouTube

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