2017 In Review: Day 8 – Jazz and Blues

By  | 

2017 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 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. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

Jazz and Blues returns as its own category this year! Long-awaited comebacks and full-length debuts abounded in 2017, and particularly strong were the solo-billed works, which account for a whopping sixteen of the twenty-four highlighted spots below. But that doesn’t mean you should miss the excellent entries from ensembles like JéHee Quintet and Choi Sung Ho Singularity (a repeat selection from last year).

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 2017

Youn Sun Nah – She Moves On

We don’t do separate recognition for vocal and instrumental jazz around here, but if we did, I would still pick She Moves On for both categories. While Nah’s voice and the session’s harmony – an all-star crew of New York’s finest – are both consistently outstanding, the album also gives alternating highlights to both. A faithful, understated cover of Lou Reed’s “Teach the Gifted Children” sees a playful Nah sing with increasing abandon, and her performance in “The Dawntreader” rolls hope, elegance, and strength all into Joni Mitchell’s magnificent chorus. Elsewhere, gorgeous piano and drum work form a stormy gale for original opener “Traveller” while “Drifting” is headlined by a breathtaking guitar solo that puts a frenetic spin on the Jimi Hendrix original. That’s just a sampling. Following suit with this consistency, there is not a single throwaway track on this album: from sharp self-written originals to the often surprising covers that go beyond standard canon, She Moves On is the full package.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Album 2017

Kim Oki – 피스투아우어솔 (Peace To Our Soul)

I have no idea how the be-everywhere do-everything saxophonist Kim Oki did it, but there he was with Peace To Our Soul, his third full-length or equivalent album in less than a year’s time. This is my favorite of the bunch: filled with warm and richly arranged bops, the album has this sense of carefreeness and ebullience up front. Opening with two jazz hip hop pieces with rapper Ejo that pick up the theme of fuckingmadness (and a little reminiscent of Gina’s 2005 album Ginagram), the EP soon launches into an almost unbroken hour of leisurely jam sessions, splintered melodies, oddly discordant moments, and of course Kim Oki’s freeform sax play. The melodies are upbeat and want you to get out of your seat; the sessions play out of their minds, particularly Lee Gyu-jae’s frenzied flute (check out the breathy midsection of “The Lord Gave the Word”). The climactic “A Love Supreme” is a glorious thirteen minutes of all this combined and then some – a perfect capper on an outrageous year for Kim.

The First Ten Out

Choi Sung Ho Singularity – 다르다와 틀리다는 다르다 (Different is Different from Wrong)

Jack Lee – Pray

Jeon Young Se Trio – Inner Light

Junbeom Kim – Human Emotions

Kangri Kim – Keep the Beauty of Time Flow

Myungsup Shin Group – Circular Dilemma

Sunny Kim & Ben Monder – The Dream of the Earth

Sun Young Park – Overdrive

Yeom Shin-hye – 고요 (A Caim)

Yoonhwa Choi – Soundscape ; ‘소리풍경’


Best Jazz and Blues Song 2017

Kangri Kim – Naturalness

After all the avant-garde and experimental goodness above, maybe Kim’s “Naturalness” seems a little tame. It’s just piano, bass, and drums in a studio, but of course that can be more than enough. The pianist conjures up a graceful composition that very quickly ramps up to soaring triplets, followed by a gorgeously flowing midsection that draws as much passion from the tireless movement as from the crashing cymbals. Enacted out over a generous six-and-a-half minutes, “Naturalness” beckons the listener to come be lost in it, and so still ends all too quickly. An ambitious debut effort, I’d say.

Runner-up Jazz and Blues Song 2017

MKS – 두 개의 시간 (Different Times)

The title gives it away: the song centers around diverging rhythms. I gave up very quickly trying to keep track of meter, but pianist Kim Mi-kyung and drummer Kang Jeon-ho embark on a parallel effort playing complex, breakneck rhythms that overlap and cross over. The two parts sound individually excellent, but I think the real pleasure here comes from listening to the duo close in on and make apparent a harmony that initially doesn’t seem to be there. There are two “breakdown” sections where the song stabilizes, as Kim separates out the rhythm chords from the melody line and Kang scales back to rim clicks and hi-hat. These feel-like moments of mesmerizing clarity and chemistry, the titular different times converging into one, and showing us how they are bound.

The First Ten Out

Choi Sung Ho Singularity – 잊혀지지 않는 것들 (Unforgettable Things) (Feat. Nam Hyunjoo) (no YouTube link)

Jae Geun Nam – Danyang (link)

JéHee Quintet – Interface (link)

Kim Jieun – Trace (흔적) (link)

Kim Oki – Fuc Ma Dreams (link)

Ksj Trio – Prime Time (no YouTube link)

Lee Jin-ah – 계단 (Stairs) (link)

Sunny – Chega de Saudade (link)

Yoonhwa Choi – Memories (no YouTube link)

Youn Sun Nah – The Dawntreader (link) (no studio version on YouTube)

Honorable Mentions


Ahn Sang Jun – Sacrifices
Conic Section – In the Fast Lane
Jae Geun Nam – Danyang
JéHee Quintet – Warp Drive
JYD Trio – Inner Side
Kim Oki – fuckingmadness
Kim Oki – Luvoki
Lee Jin-ah – Random
Sunny – The Healing
Yoonseung Choi & Maria Kim – I’m Old Fashioned


A-Fuzz – Highway Star
Conic Section – In the Fast Lane
Dusky80 – Promenade
Electric Planet Five – 구름 (Clouds)
Hee Kyung Na – 끝, 그 이후 (Sorrow)
Hee Kyung Na & Celso Fonseca – Samba E Tudo
IIHK – Thinking of You
Jack Lee – Pray
Jang Soo-hyun and Won Da-hee – Cosmic Dust
Jeon Young Se Trio – Inner Light
Jinju Yi – Freely, Naturally
Kang Gyu-hyun – Nightmare
Kangri Kim – First Trip
Kim Oki – 묘정의 노래 (Subjugate the O-rangke)
Kim Oki – 정도 면에서 최대의 사랑 (A Love Supreme)
Ksj Trio – Meaningless
Ku Il-oh Trio – 팝빙수 삼바 (PopBingsoo Samba)
Lee Jin-ah – Random
Lee Seonghoon Group – Nardis
Lim Yujin – Frida
SAZA Choi Woojoon – Playin Hard to Get (Feat. Hyewon)
Sewoon Kim Jazz Chamber – Dance of Birds
Sunny Kim & Ben Monder – The Dream of the Earth (Feat. Satoshi Takeishi)
Sun Young Park – Kitty Kiss
Tony Shin – Miss. Waltz
Yeom Shin-hye – 고요 (A Caim)
Youn Sun Nah – Drifting
Youn Sun Nah – Traveller

Sources: album art from Bugs Music

Read our past series:

2016 In Review

2015 in Review

2014 in Review

2013 in Review

2012 in Review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *