2021 In Review: Day 10 – Jazz and Blues

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2021 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

Sometimes words are not needed – or even helpful – in processing emotions. Some jazz musicians noticeably used instrumental expositions and experimental sounds to process the struggle of the pandemic in 2021, whether explicitly as in the case of Sunjae Lee and Jun Young Song or obliquely as in Shin Hyun Pill, Seo Kwang-seok and many others. Of course, vocalists from BaekJu to Narae Lee to Cho Jung-hee continued to sing their way to people’s hearts in this diverse scene.

The “Next 10” and honorable mention lists are alphabetically sorted by artist name.

The 2021 Jazz and Blues Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below (note that Spotify is missing particularly many works from this category):


Best Jazz and Blues Album 2021

Lee Jiyeun – 푸른꽃 (Blue Flower)

Lee Jiyeun’s maximalist approach shines bright again: the opulence of a full orchestra setup permeates every corner of these long (averaging over six minutes) and generously scaled compositions, as Lee’s vibrant piano dazzles in the center. Moments like the tantalizing tension in the background strings of “All That Glitters” and layered coordination of “The Shattered Light”‘s ending are all made possible through intricate management. The work of a maestro.

The Runner-up

Kim Oki – Everytime

An eclectic but consistently engaging collection of jazz and jazz-infused tunes from the country’s most prolific jazz musician. Kim’s saxophone takes a supporting role in the tender bubbling of “Pour Toi” and chiptune-playful “Love Song for Me”, but he lets it rip much more conspicuously on the luxurious hip-hop beats. It’s an album that seems keen to demonstrate the spectrum of what you can do with a sax in today’s scene.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

3 Sailors – 소소 (Soso)

Iseul Kim Trio – True Me

Jaeil Ji Trio – Eternity

Jihye & Jisu – “Hi, We Are Jihye & Jisu”

Kang Seung-hun – No Matter What

Lucia Choi – Squall

Meari Nam – House on the Rock

Shin Hyun Pill – Jarasum Jazz Residency I (How to Face My Anxiety)

Soojin Suh – Roots to Branches

Sumin Jung – Lament


Best Jazz and Blues Song 2021

Meari Nam – Your Blues
Composed and arranged by Meari Nam

Choosing to end the album on this solo piece was an inspired decision, as Meari Nam’s expressive play takes the groove of House on the Rock into one crystalline composition. Soulful yet laid back, the piece pulses with wit and gentle humor. Nam’s delicate touch comes through wholeheartedly on the echoing sound stage, as the track breathes in liberating rhythm over these five spellbound minutes.

The Runner-up

Lee Jiyeun – 푸른꽃 (Blue Flower)
Composed and arranged by Lee Jiyeun

The burgeoning mood is evident from the first minute, as the brass line repeatedly opens up an intriguing motif. Even as it underpins the solos, the section is so good in itself that its returns and endless variations end up stealing the show. The song’s sense of mystery and roiling mood absorb without ever needing to go over the top for a climax.

The Next 10 (Alphabetical)

Ho Yeon Lim – 신념 (Belief)

Jaeil Ji Trio – 이제 그만 놓을까 (So, Do I?)

Jaeshin Park, Youngwoo Lee, Jongkuk Kim – Deep Mind

Jueun – Innerside

Kang Seung-hun – No Matter What

Kim Oki – Pour Toi (Feat. Minsu)

Park Ji-eun – You Are You

Shin Hyun Pill – Fear

Yi Yunseon, Park Jongmoon, Kim Wonhyung – Up and Down

Yun Seokcheol – 꿈이었으면 (If It Were a Dream)

Honorable Mentions


Cho Jung-hee – Songs and Lullabies
Dami Lee – Seasons
Detection of Dead Spot – 무경계 (Borderless)
End & And – And
End & And – Summer’s End
Haya – Traveler
Ho Yeon Lim – But Your Eyes Were So Cold
Jae Min Kim – I’ll Take Off Mine
Jaeshin Park – Deep Mind
Kang Mikyung – 17
Kim Oki – 스트레인지, 트루 뷰티 (Strange, True Beauty)
Lee Chang-hoon – Marionette
Minki – Self Reflection
Park Sun Young – JR Combo
Saekim – Moon Color Sound
Saseon – 사선 (Saseon)
Seo Bo-kyung – 다정한 온기 (Kind Warmth)
Seo Young Do – 오티움 (Otium)
Seyun Park – The Moon at Night
Soonsoo – The Lily in the Desert
Sunjae Lee & Jun Young Song – Claustrophobia
Suwon Yim – When It Falls
Wooden Chair – Barefoot Summer
Yi Yunseon, Park Jongmoon, Kim Wonhyung – Clinomania


3 Sailors – 소소 (Soso)
Ahn Shin-ae – 티키타카 (More Than a Feeling) (Prod. Park Geun-tae)
BaekJu – 선인장 (Cactus)
Big Violin Player, Bpad, Siaseeds, Mike Casey – 캐빈 클라우드 (Cabin Cloud)
Chaeyoon Kim – Humane
Choi Hee-young – Farewell
Dami Lee – Spring
Eggeater – Forest
Eunseo Kim – 가면 (Persona)
Ho Yeon Lim – 반투명 (Translucence)
Iseul Kim Trio – Astoria Waltz
Iseul Kim Trio – True Me (Feat. Hanel Yeon)
Jaeil Ji Trio – 부코스키의 파랑새 (Blue Bird in Your Mind)
Ji Park – Glacier
Jihye & Jisu – 론다와 나 (Ronda and Me)
Kang Mikyung – 17
Kang Seung-hun – Passion
Kim Oki – 스트레인지, 트루 뷰티 (Strange, True Beauty)
Lee Chang-hoon – 이스라엘 (Israel)
Lucia Choi – 20’s (Twenty)
Lucia Choi – 표류 (Drifting)
Moida Band – 400km
Narae Lee – Dancing
Park Ji-eun – Dream Like
Robiq – 6.0.2
Robiq – Heaven (In My Head)
Saekim – Moon Color Sound
Saseon – Care
Saseon – Reflection
Saseon – Summer Effect
Seo Bo-kyung & Anita Baek – 아멘 (Amen)
Seo Kwang-seok – Crisis
Seok Jimin – Lumière
Seyun Park – The Moon at Night (Feat. Ahyoung Min)
Shinyoung Kim – Towards
Soojin Suh – Roots to Branches
Sooki – 꽃 시 (Flower Poem)
Soonsoo – 나비창고 (Nabi’s Storage)
Sumin Jung – 빚 (Debt)
Surim – 사랑의 말 (Words of Love)
Suwon Yim – When It Falls (Feat. Noam Tanzer)
Wonsool Lee – Walking on Winter
Wooden Chair – Barefoot Summer
Ye Eun Park – Svalbard (Song for the Polar Bear)
Yeonju Song & Yeomeeda – 너를 듣는 시간 (Time Listening to You)
Yu Tae-sung – Coexistence

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

Read our past series:

2020 In Review

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review