2016 in Review: Day 8 – Jazz and Crossover

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[2016 in Review]

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 Crossover
9. Best Collaborative Work
10. Rookie Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Song of the Year
13. Album of the Year
14. Staff Picks
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

This year, we are doing a little reversion: instead of having separate “Jazz and Blues” and “Crossover and Other” categories, they will be covered in one article. It was not possible to review enough jazz albums to merit its own category, so even the “honorable mentions” section contains many albums that I only covered bits and pieces of. The songs categories are still separated across the two sub-headings. So on this page, there would be a Best Jazz/Crossover Album, a Best Jazz Song, and a Best Crossover Song – be sure to check them all out.

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 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 Crossover Album 2016

Jambinai - A Hermitage

Jambinai – A Hermitage (은서;隱棲)

Jambinai’s music has thrived on anticipation: in Differance, we listened to periods of calm or building suspense, led by plucking geomungo or gliding haegeum, knowing that the explosion was coming. (The two-track, eight-minute wait for the climax of “바라밀다” (“Beyond the Hill Yonder”) showing this in the extreme.)  A Hermitage still offers that in droves, of course, but many tracks here also discard that approach in thrilling fashion. “For Everything You Lost” borrows from postrock conventions, using the geomungo as melodic foil to the buzzing guitars and steadily building without release; “Abyss” takes Ignito‘s off-beat rapping as another layer to the rhythmic intermissions. In a shrill twist, the haegeum is used like a medieval horn in “Deus Benedict Tibi” as its lengthy intro solo, and “They Keep Silence” kicks up the tempo and drum activity. This is a Jambinai more powerful, more intense, more frenetic – improving upon their already one-of-a-kind formula.

Runner-up Jazz and Crossover Album 2016

Cho Jung-hee – 3일의 낮과 밤 (3 Days and Nights)

As vocal jazz albums go, this one is played very straight. Cho Jung-hee doesn’t break into sparkling scat sessions or extreme range. Instead, she is contented to let her crisp, slightly dry voice to share the stage with the magnificent instrumentation, focusing on detailed expression. Meanwhile, the smooth and nocturnal arrangements are crafted by an all-star cast of the country’s premier jazz artists, including Bae Sun-yong on trumpet, Wonsool Lee on contrabass, and Kim Jung-bae on guitar, just to name these three; Lee’s direction has wrought a balanced album with breathtaking power. Even an instrumental version of this album would have a claim to greatness. As we have it, Cho’s evocative performances make special moments like “길 잃은 새에게 말 건네기” (“Bird Lost Her Way”) possible, stirring the soul and body alike.

The First Ten Out

Songs (Jazz and Blues)

Best Jazz and Blues Song 2016

Im Ingun – 바람이 부네요 (Wind’s Blowing) (Vocal Park Sung-yeon)

Janus, the Reminiscence is an album that commemorates Club Janus, Korea’s first-ever jazz club started by Park Sung-yeon in 1978. In an effort that brought together the past and future of Korean jazz, Park herself as well as other first-generation artists like Lee Dong-gi and Choi Sun-bae lent their talents despite battles with illness, while an army of younger musicians from Malo to Heo So-young provided reinforcements. Lead single “Wind’s Blowing” is a track unlike any of this year: Im Ingun’s soft, folksy piano line and Wonsool Lee’s bass are moving yet peaceful, and Park sings in weathered tones with a deeply resonant melody and unifying message. It is at once a masterful song and a beautiful tribute to those who made all of it possible.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Song 2016

Jang Soo-hyun and Won Da-hee – Someone’s Personality

Both of these musicians have been busy lately, with Jang working double-time as the violinist of Salon d’O and Danpyunsun and the Sailors, while Won released a full-length solo album (which you may have noticed on Day 6). Their pair-up is an unsurprisingly full-sounding EP even though it features just only two instruments. “Someone’s Personality” is a gorgeous piece, at six minutes of soaring melody in gliding harmony. Even though this is the most classical-sounding piece I’ve heard from Jang, the highlight solos are free-form and unpredictable. The middle section, when Won’s piano gains frenetic speed and complexity as Jang dutifully plays the opening melody, is particularly stunning. Immediately engaging, yet the impression is lasting.

The First Ten Out

A-Fuzz – Mr. Watermelon (Featuring LeeSA)

Choi Sung Ho Singularity – 어떤 시작 (A Certain Beginning)

Eunmi Kim – A Throbbing Heart

Hyosung Lee – Something Compares to the Original

Lee Seol (Jenny Lee) - Empathy

Jenny Lee – Empathy

Jihye Lee Orchestra – Deep Blue Sea

Jo Sungin Trio – Karive

JSFA – Sketchy

Song Rudia – La Pluie

Sunji Lee & Jinju Jang – The Falling of Blossom

Songs (Crossover and Other Genres)

Best Crossover and Other Genres Song 2016

2nd Moon – 어사출두 (The Royal Inspector Appears) (Featuring Kim Junsoo)

2nd Moon’s Pansori Chunhyang-ga is a landmark album, boldly mixing the traditional vocals of pansori with Western instrumentation, and this was the best song on it. Narratively, it appears at the end of the Chunhyang-ga story, where (centuries-old spoiler alert!) the titular heroine’s lover, back in tatters from the national examination, is revealed to be the secret royal inspector, and wrecks the corrupted magistrate. As such, it is a climactic moment of the tale as well as this album. The first half is a buildup: as the magistrate’s party rages on, the sorikkun singer Kim Junsoo describes the suspecting guests trying to leave the scene, atop sweeping string vistas and ringing piano – that 2nd Moon staple. The royal inspector’s appearance sets off the vivacious second half, as Kim booms the proclamation with cymbal backing. Bystanders scatter, officials run into each other and people bleed and cry, all “as if the sky fell and ground sank”; the proclamation is made again, as frenetic tuplets collapse into a cathartic conclusion and trill. This is magical.

Runner-up Crossover and Other Genres Song 2016

Danpyunsun and the Sailors & Choi Sam – 날 (Hasta)

“Hasta” defies categorization even more than typical Sailors work. Percussive guitars and actual percussion (bongos and cajon, I think) pound mercilessly from the get-go, as Choi Sam raps on a flurry in that trademark monotone. The rhythm keeps you guessing: the song is in what sounds like 6/8 time (except for a brief intermission) so it would make sense to put the rhymes in the third and sixth notes of each measure. But Choi often pulls or pushes them to the second and fourth. It knocks the listener off balance and, combined with drifting tone and scathing lyrics that attack duplicity and hypocrisy, creates a really free-flowing performance. The Latin words sung and then recited by Danpyunsun is the Mysteria Dolorosa, a solemn Catholic Rosary prayer on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it makes for a stark contrast with the vitriol of Choi’s verses, and perhaps it is meant to be the rebuke – perhaps even on the narrator – that the “Kyrie eleison” plays in the classic “Hellfire”. (Thank you, artists, for letting me make a Disney reference.) An unorthodox structure and Jang Soo-hyun‘s hair-raising violin performance add further distinction to this wonderfully wrought musical storm.

The First Ten Out

Ccot Byel – 일렁이는 마음 (Rolling Soul)

Easternmost – On Voyage

Echae Kang – Now I See (Featuring Koh Sang-ji, Mathias Minquet)

El Caminito – El Caminito

Gyepi Sisters – 피어라 (Wakening)

Mua – 두껍아 두껍아 (Dear Toad)

Silkbell – 껄떡고개 (Mountain High)

Skull – Get Rich (Featuring Sizzla)

The Quill – 꿈을 향해 걷다 (Walk to the Dream)

W – 카우걸을 위한 자장가는 없다 (No Lullaby for Cowgirls) (Featuring Whale)

Honorable Mentions


Jazz – Pop, Standard and Studio

Eunmi Kim – A Throbbing Heart
Eunmi Seo – Riverflow
Hyejin Jo – Lone Traveler
Hyosung Lee – Rhythmic Elaborations
Im Bora Trio – 우리는 이렇게 가로로 앉아서 (Sitting Side of You)
Jihye Lee Orchestra – April
Kang Jieun – You Know Me
Lee Ji Young – Eulogy
Lee Myoung Gun Trio – 피고지고 (Bloom and Fade)
Lee Ju-mi – Life is a Journey to be Myself
Meno Mosso – Time Will Tell
Oh Jae-chul Trio – Bridge
Seyoung Kim Trio – Jazz Spirit
Sunji Lee & Jinju Jang – Folksongs
Trio Closer – More Human
Yoo Young-min – 12월 어느 날 밤에 (One Night in December)

Jazz – Avant-garde and Hybrid

Choi Sung-ho Singularity – 어떤 시작 (A Certain Beginning)
Cho Hyo-min Trio – Walk to Origin
Jun Yong-jun – Chromatic DNA
Kim Oki – 거대한 뿌리 (Massive Root)
Second Session – Intervals
Vam – Collective1

Acid and Nu-jazz

Scarlet Mojo-Pin – A Sad Story of the Near Future


MuzGrain – Take Care

Korean Traditional/Crossover

Ccot Byel – 고요의 시간 (Time of Tranquility)
P-Dul – 첫 나들이 (First Outing)
Silkbell – 비단종 (Silk Bell)


Soro Sori – Secret Garden

New Age

Lee Byung-woo – 우주기타 (Cosmic Guitar)

Ska and Reggae

NST – Low and Steady
NST & The Soul Sauce – Heaven Is Here/Song for Rico
Oriental Showcus – Oriental Showcus

Other Crossover

Hoonch – Instrumentazz


Jazz – Pop, Standard and Studio

Another Season – Just For Two
Anna – 굿모닝 (Good Morning)
Cheongchundahi – 작은별 (Little Star)
Cho Jung-hee – Hello, Rain
Cho Jung-hee – 천 개의 달 ((I Feel Your) 1,000 Eyes)
Eunmi Seo – Riverflow
Hwangbo Jong-tae Quartet – 항해비 (Voyage in the Rain)
Hyejin Jo – Lone Traveler
Jang Hyejin & Yun Seokcheol Trio – 따뜻해 (Warm)
Jenny Lee – 봄을 봄 (Look for Spring)
Jimin Lee – Circles to Nil
Joo Hyung-jin – 비밀을 말하다 (Speak Secrets)
Jung Song-gi – South Coast Holidays
Kang Jieun – Last Alone (Featuring Kim Hye-mi)
LaRa Ahn – Out of the City
Min Chae – 가을하늘 아래 우리는 (What Can I Do)
Nam Yeji – Anna
Roja & Mihwa – Slow Hot Wind (Featuring Wana Hong)
Seo Seowoojae – Dusty Dusty (Featuring Song Eun-ho)
Seyoung Kim Trio – Dilemma
Sol Lee X Inyoung Chung – 그 겨울 그리고 너 (Blowing Winter)
Woongsan – Jazz Is My Life

Jazz – Avant-garde and Hybrid

A-Fuzz – Chance
A-Fuzz – Man From The East
A-Fuzz – 숨 (Breath) (Featuring Choi Sam)
Choi Sung-ho Singularity – 도시의 하루 (A Day in the City)
Hwang Hyung-yun – Not Too Late
Jane – Eastern Funk (Featuring Oz Noy)
Jun Yong-jun – Chromatic DNA
Kang Huh Dalrim – 바다 영혼 (Ocean Soul)
Myungwon Kim – Norway Street

Acid and Nu-jazz

Scarlet Mojo-Pin – 흔들리네요 (I Feel the Swing)

Bossa Nova

I.Na – Like a Sunshine
Kingston Ludisca – 리우데자네이루 (Rio de Janeiro) (Featuring Nah Hee-kyung)
Park Mi-soo Trio – 미련 (Lingering)


Sina & Pierre Faa – 감탄 (L’émerveillement)


Muses – 숲속으로 (Into the Forest)

Korean Traditional/Crossover

2nd Moon – 신연맞어 (New Year) (Featuring Koh Young-yeol)
2nd Moon – 이별가 (Song of Parting) (Featuring Kim Junsu)
Coreyah – 박수 쳐 (Clap)
Fairy Tale Friends – 구름이 무심탄 말이 (Clouds So Uncaring)
Koo Ja-eun – 한오백년 (Regretful Five Hundred Years) (Featuring Shim Ye-eun)
Lee Se Mi – Café’ con Leche
Tan+emotion – 나가주세요 (Please Leave)


Soro Sori – Shilla Harmony

New Age

Jun Song-yi – 곶자왈의 신비 (Wonders of Gotjawal)

Ska and Reggae

G. Soul – 멀리멀리 (Far, Far Away)
Lee Jong-min – 가겠소 (Gotta Go)
Oriental Showcus – 눈감으면 (Eyes Closed)
Rude Paper – Blue
Skawakers – Beyond the Storm

Latin, Tango, Salsa and Afro-Cuban

Cubanism – 집에 가지마 (Don’t Go Home)
Kim Feel – 괴수 (Monster) (Featuring Echae Kang, Koh Sang-ji)
Koh Sang-ji – Primavera Portena
Miso Kim – 사랑해 사랑해 (Love U, Love U) (Featuring Koh Sang-ji)
Ma Hye-ryung – Libertango
Plynn – Strictly Bohemian


Dskk – 너와 함께 떠나는 여행 (Travel With You)

Other Crossover

Echae Kang – Something Cold
Hoonch – Heaven (Sunwoo Jung-A)
Kim Ban-jang – Boat Journey
Kim Chang-wan Band – 시간 (Time) (Featuring Koh Sang-ji)
Odaeri – 데자뷰 시티 레퀴엠 (Deja Vu City Requiem)
Tafkah Buddah – 머 어때 (Doesn’t Matter)
Yaya – Scarlet Winter

Sources: album art and Janus, the Reminiscence header image from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

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