Review

2019 In Review: Day 10 – Jazz And Blues

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2019 In Review

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

I like to think that our jazz coverage is improving each year, though it’s an unfortunate reality that so many works still go falling through the cracks. The works that did make our 2019 list are sublime, brimming with excellence in staple solo leads – piano, vocal, bass, trumpet and more – as well as in fusion, acid, avant-garde, and even orchestral styles.

Notes:

  • The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.
  • The 2019 Jazz and Blues Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:

Albums

Best Jazz and Blues Album 2019

Lim Mi-jung – Composure

True to its namesake, Composure is relaxed and gentle: its melodies often take leisurely routes toward resolution and there’s a reassuring deliberation in its rhythm. The teamwork between Lim Mi Jung and the rest of this quartet is palpable and the glue that holds the album together. Still, I can’t resist being partial to the dazzle that stands out among the placidity. The twin epics of “Spring Joy” and “Raindrops” (together spanning over 17 minutes) are defined by the veteran pianist’s unfettered play, and the breakneck pace of “You’re Strange” and the unpredictable chaos of “I Know Now” are further sonic joys. Seasoned virtuosity and deserved confidence made for an expressive classic in Composure.

The Runner-up

Min Se-jeong Spectrum – Our Dignity

This was the debut album for prolific jazz pianist Min Se-jeong’s ensemble crew, and while a trio sound (bass and drum) led by Min’s piano justifiably takes center stage for most of it, the additions of Cho Yoonkyoung’s violin, Joung Heejin’s cello, and Hong Taehoon’s trumpet added a decadent flavor to Our Dignity. This expansion of the “Spectrum” was what made the album’s forays of tango and lush swing and rolling fanfare possible. In crown jewel “Waking Up into a Dream”, we hear the gorgeous string melody and stirring piano buildup hand off between each other and burst out into the sweeping release, exemplifying both the delicate and layered interplay, and inspired composition that define the album.

The Next-Best Ten

Hong Chae-won – New Scene

John Nam – J.A.M.

Kim Oki – 스피릿선발대 (Spirit Advance Unit)

Kim Seong Hwa Group – Quiet Waters

Lee Seong-hoon – Motivation

MeariNam Band – Your Blues

MKS – Monologue

Salon d’O – 데미안 (Demian)

Youngjoo Song & Sunny Kim – Tribute

Youn Sun Nah – Immersion

Songs

Best Jazz and Blues Song 2019

Lim Mi-jung – Raindrops

Composed and arranged by Lim Mi-jung

Rain is a fickle thing, with as many dispositions as we have moods. “Raindrops” captured a little bit of that range in gorgeous melody. The first three minutes of the track are breathtaking, with a gentle rhythm of eighths landing like soft droplets on a rooftop and seguing into a lonesome melody. The second act is basically a whole different piece yet a motif of rapidly descending, deluge-like piano keeps the theme alive, and the quartet follow the melody downstream into Lim’s solo outro, a trickle that closes the track. “Raindrops” told a story in evocative sounds and breathed alongside it; set next to an actual rainy day, it was magical.

The Runner-up

MKS – 빛을 따라 (Following Light)

Composed by Kim Mi-kyung; arranged by MKS and Robiq

Piano-drum duo MKS find themselves back in this exact slot for the second time since our 2017 In Review. Reflecting the more varied sound set of the sophomore album, “Following Light” supplements its forlorn piano melody with ominous string synths and booming bass (and later session partner Choi Ji-woong’s guitar), like a pitch-black cavern echoing in grandeur and illuminated by a light at the end. Kim Mi-kyung and Kang Jeon-ho progressively break down that main motif, chopping it up, peeling off the extra layers, distorting it. Carrying the spirit of MKS’s math-rock approach to rhythm while expanding its drama, “Following Light” was a brief but magical experience.

The Next-Best Ten

Ant Is Fourmi in French – Lux in Tenebris (Home)

Choi Hyun-jung Trio – Mr. Park

Habana – Step

Jihee Yoon – All of a Sudden

John Nam – Fireflies

Kim Oki – 이겨내는 것들 (Stuff to Overcome) (Feat. Woo)

MeariNam Band – 늦은 감은 있지만 (Belatedly)

Min Se-jeong Spectrum – Waking Up Into a Dream

Salon d’O – 목이 긴 여자 (Long Neck Woman)

Wonsang Jo – 열 (Fever) (Feat. Yohankim)

Honorable Mentions

Albums

A-Fuzz – What the Fuzz
Ahn Soo-kyoung – The Expansion of Love
Ant Is Fourmi in French – Genesis
Ant Is Fourmi in French – Lux in Tenebris
Choi Sung Ho Singularity – 주기율표 (The Periodic Table)
Dear Jazz Orchestra – A New Pulse
Habana – Step
Jihoon Shin – Wireless
Jimin Lee – 이상한 꽃 (Strange Flower)
Kim Min Hee – Don’t Explain
Kim Sunki – 이상 (Isang)
Kim Young Joo Quartet – My Jazz
Lee Han-earl Trio – Unexpected Fly
Lee Han Jin – 4th Lee Han Jin Band With You
Lee Sung Chan – With You
Liberosis – Luna
Minji Kim – Every Moment
Park Kiman – Interior Monologue
Q the Trumpet – Duvet
Secret Forest – Con Amore
Seungho Jang – A Little Girl Dancing
Sohyun Hong – Imagine
Sunghwan Choi – Keep Walk on the Swing
Trio Works – Gunsan Gaka
Yoon Miyoon – When Your Light Turn On

Songs

A-Fuzz – What the Fuzz
Cha Eun-ae – 나비 (Butterfly)
Choi Hyun-jung Trio – 공존 (Coexistence)
Daeun Kim – Spectrum
Dear Jazz Orchestra – 작은 물고기 큰 바다 (Small Fish Big Sea)
Hong Chae-won – The Scream (The Cry)
Hong Ye-eun – Avocado
Hong Young-ho Trio – 낡은 구두 (Old Shoes) (Feat. Kwon Ji-hye)
Im Bora – Yellow Notes
Jane – C’est la Vie (Feat. Stella Jang)
Jeon Young Se Trio – 변한다 (Everything Is Changing) (with Park Sae-yeon)
Jihee Yoon – So Long, Farewell
Jihoon Shin – Butterfly
Jimin Lee – 꽃나무 (Flower Tree)
Kim Seong Hwa Group – Quiet Waters
Kim Young Joo Quartet – Cliff
Kyubin – Solace
Lee Ah-sun – The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Feat. Park Sun-ye)
Lee Seong-hoon – Flowering
Lim Mi-jung – Heart Song
Lim Mi-jung – Spring Joy
LSJS – Parallel City
Min Se-jeong Spectrum – Ocean Splash
MKS – Weekday
Q the Trumpet – Worth Being Loved (Feat. Xenovibe)
Secret Forest – Con Amore
Sohyun Hong – Imagine
Sunjae Lee – Alternative Facts
Sunwoo Kim – Forest in Blue
Yoon Miyoon – When Your Light Turn On
Yoon Hyung – Love or Nothing
Youngjoo Song & Sunny Kim – York Avenue
Youn Sun Nah – Invincible
Youn Sun Nah – Mystic River


Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review

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