2015 in Review: Day 8 – Jazz and Blues

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[The 2015 in Review Series]

1. Prelude (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. Other Recognition
17. Concluding Remarks

This category is basically impossible to pick for me: year after year, I ask you to take these selections as just one permutation of a million other possible ones, as there is very little separating my favorite album from one in the Honorable Mentions pile in terms of quality. (This is particularly true on the albums side.) The year may have been a little light in big-name returns, but I don’t think the quality of work dropped off at all – the scene is just so deep.

Important: as in previous 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 “First Ten Out” and “Honorable Mention” picks are sorted by artist name.


Best Jazz and Blues Album 2015

Salon d'O - Le Souffle de Paris

Salon d’O – 파리의 숨결 (Le Souffle de Paris)

Salon d’O’s sophomore release was brimming with imagination. You know, the kind that sweeps the listener off their feet and whisks them away. Inspired by Oh Soo-kyung‘s (ongoing) time in Paris as well as memories of youth, the album would have us see the same sights, hear the same sounds and experience the same things as she did. Befitting the titles – “Flight of the Toy Soldier”, “Music Box”, “Merry-Go-Round” – the instrumentation of Le Souffle de Paris is both playful and evocative, with Park Ji-young and Jang Soo-hyun‘s intricate string work lending convincing power to both moods. The breath of Paris, indeed.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Album 2015

Jin Kim - The Jazz Unit

Jin Kim – The Jazz Unit

The Jazz Unit was absolutely exhilarating, maybe more so than any other release of 2015. The fantastic teamwork of Jin Kim and the quintet brought together individually fierce performances into perfectly synced movement: from the unbridled vitality of Yoo Jong-hyun‘s saxophone to the stabilizing beauty of Paul Kirby‘s piano, each elevate the others. The team is as comfortable with formless freedom (“A Priori”) as with vocal-driven nocturnes (“Rain Walk”). It’s eight tracks of all-too-short but sweet bebop.

The First Ten Out


Best Jazz and Blues Song 2015

Hyunjung Choi – Part 1

“Part 1” had no regard for even beats, as Hyunjung Choi’s piano starts on odd footing and continues in a wonderfully tense mood for its opening act. Eventually the beat settles, and the instability is replaced by a frenetic interplay between Choi and the trio as well as Kim Byung-ryul‘s saxophone in an extended interlude. That breathless harmony heralded a type that is seen repeatedly in Choi’s album (particularly in “The Song Is You”), but perhaps done best right here.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Song 2015

Yeom Shin-hye & Sunwoo Jung-A – Blossom

Sunwoo Jung-A is a fantastic do-everything vocalist, but her roots are in jazz. She was completely in her element in “Blossom”, an austere track that (like the rest of Riano Poom) thrives on soft and easy-on-ears melody and attention to detail. In it, Sunwoo almost whispers the words, letting her voice fade softly on occasion. Yeom Shin-hye busily builds up the intricate accompaniment before breaking into the free-gliding solo, and her confident play complements the understated vocals well. Vocalized brushing, blowing into the mic, and tongue clicks were the final ingredients completing the delicious track.

The First Ten Out

A:gasings - Beautiful Life

A:gasings – Beautiful Life

Han Dong-il - Zeta

Dong-il Han – My Melancholy Baby

Hanearl Lee Trio - Unwissend

Hanearl Lee Trio – Unwissend*

Hee Kyung Na - Flowing

Hee Kyung Na – Acaso (Featuring Ivan Lins)

Hong Kyungsup - Chaos

Hong Kyungsup – 카오스 (Chaos)

Hyunjung Choi - The Song Is You

Hyunjung Choi – The Song Is You (Featuring Sunwoo Jung-A)

Pete Jung Quartet - March 7

Pete Jung Quartet – March 7

Salon d'O - Le Souffle de Paris

Salon d’O – 파리의 숨결 (Le Souffle de Paris) (Featuring Joon Smith)

Se-jeong Min - Se-jeong Min Trio

Se-jeong Min – May Hear My Cry

Son, Song, Kim - A Farewell To An Unknown Friend

Sungjae Son, Junyoung Song, Eunyoung Kim – Dream

Honorable Mentions


AhYoung Min – 뜻밖에 핀 꽃 (Unexpected Blossoms)
BG Salon – 현재의 발견 (Discovering Now)
Comodo Trio – Comodo Trio 1st Album
Daytrip – Daybreak
Dong-il Han – Zeta
Einarae – 솔직한 널 보면 (Just Be You)
Eunjeong Hwang – The Ensemble
Gentle Rain – Home
Glass Bead Game – 주머니 속의 꿈 (Dreams In Pocket)
Hanearl Lee Trio – Unwissend
Hong Kyungsup – 카오스 (Chaos)
Hyoji Choi – Imaginary Face
J-Power – The Power of Love
Jin Pyo Hong – Daily Issues
Joon Ho Yang Trio – Timeless Traveler
Jung Yeon – Farewell To Old Me
Jun Young Song – Solo
Ju Quartet – Ju Quartet
Jusin Min – Balance
Kyungsik Choi Quartet – Yearning
Layla – 밤의 노래 (Song of Night)
Lee Kwang-hyeon – Psychology
Lee Sung-chan Group – Cloud Street
Lunar Hill – On The Lunar-Hill
Mantra Effect – Traveler
Moonyong – Und
Nana Kwon – All About Love
The NEQ – Passing of Illusion
Neuru – From Love
Pete Jung Quartet – March 7
Shin Ahram Trio – Obtain
Shinina Band – Moonlight
Son Sung-je, Song Joon-young, Kim Eun-young – A Farewell To An Unknown Friend
Sooyoung Chin Jazz Orchestra – The Fables
Sung Nockwon – You Are The One
Sunhang Lee Jazz Quartet – Solitude
Urban Tuesday – 작은 별 (Little Star)
Woongi Han – Reasons Behind
Won Youngjo Trio – As Music As
Woo SeungJi – Green Tape
Yongseok Lee – Shall We?
You Sarang – My Way
Yunu Park Trio – Earth, Life & Us


Awesome Day – The Galaxy
BG Salon – 집으로 (The Way Home)
Blue Salt – Every Step In You
Chae Hee-soo – Emotion
Chilnammae – Feeling
Choi Hye-ryung – Drive
Chon Yongjun – Blues New
Comodo Trio – 귀뚜라미야 안녕 (Hello Cricket)
Dalice In Wonderland – 종합사탕세트 (Mixed Candy Set)
Endless Cave – 공간의 빛 (Spatial Light)
Gentle Rain – Circus
Hanho Lee & Hayong Lim – 달려간다 (Run To You)
Hee Kyung Na – Estate (Summer)
Jane – West Coast Drive (Featuring Paul Jackson Jr.)
Joon Ho Yang Trio – Timeless Suite No. 1/b, ‘Memories of the Traveler’
J-Power – The Power of Love
Jin Kim – First One
Jung Cho-hee – 추억이 될꺼야 (Will Become Memories)
Jung Yeon – Escape
Kim Byul – The Winter Song
Layla – 밤의 노래 (Song of Night)
Lee Gwang-hyeon – Anxiety
Lim Young-il – Good For Me
Lunar Hill – Road (For Two)
Lunar Hill & Soom – Sail Away
Neuru – Stay With Me (Featuring Choi Woo-sung)
Ryu Joohee – 자기합리화 (Self-Rationalization)
SAZA – Christmas Blues
Shinina Band – Moonlight
Sonnet Son – 첫눈이 온다구요 (First Snow)
Sooyoung Chin Jazz Orchestra – Jasmine
Sung Nockwon – The Moon
Sweet-O – 미미 블루스 (Mimi Blues)
Tony Shin – 보사 한나 (Bossa Hanna) (Featuring Danbee)
Urban Tuesday – 작은 별 (Little Star)
Wine Loop – 너 그리고 나 (You And I)
Winterplay – 하얀겨울 (White Winter)
Woo SeungJi – Wanderman
Yongseok Lee – Shall We? (Featuring Eric Alexander)
Young Decibel – 회색을 보면 (Looking At Gray)

*Studio version not available on YouTube.

Sources: header image and album art from Bugs Music.

Editing by MaliVai Tjong Ayong

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