Korean traditional music melds with German jazz

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Korean traditional music melds with German jazz

Maybe the beauty of life comes from surprises. That's the opinion of the German classical jazz band SaltaCello, which came to Korea last week to play a run of concerts.

The band -- the leader Peter Schindler, on piano, Wolfgang Schindler on cello, Mini Schulz on bass, Herbert Wachter on drums and Peter Lehel on saxophone -- sat with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition to talk about their music and who they are.

Formed in 1992, the band has always been strongly influenced by world music. That was the idea the quintet had when it started -- to pursue something new, while basing compositions around the cello and piano, instead of sticking to conventional jazz styles. The band started out with uplifting, arranged and pleasant jazz pieces, with influences such as bossa nova and tango.

The band's name, SaltaCello, comes from saltare, Italian for "jump over" or "turn around," and cello. "The name contains our hope to play music in which the cello jumps over its stereotype as a classical instrument to something more diverse, not to mention something new," Schindler said.

After releasing two albums, "On the Way" (1996) and "Second Flush" (1999), the quintet reached a turning point. After coming for the Muju Jazz Festival in Korea in early 1999, the members were moved by Korean traditional music. "I thought we should add that sound to our repertoire," said Schulz. The band returned to Korea in July 1999 for a concert, which resulted in a CD, "Live in Seoul." A late 1999 release, "Salted," has elements of Korean traditional music, with traditional vocals on the tracks "Ong-Heya" and "Five in a Row (Gangwondo Arirang)."

Gentle and witty like their music, the members tried to describe their music style. "SaltaCello wants to make a brain music pool," said Schultz, with Lehel quickly adding "or a globalization of all musical styles on earth." Schindler said, "Good music should catch your attention, wherever and whenever, no matter what its style is."

Are they popular at home? Schindler: "We have a lot of concerts back in Europe which get rave reviews, surprisingly. Critics are surprised at our performances and the public just loves the new influence."

Now, coinciding with the World Cup soccer games, the band is back for a long run of shows. On top of performing in several cities nationwide, the band has stayed at a Buddhist temple, Haeinsa, and played for the monks there. "I guess I'm the first saxophone player in the world who played in a Korean temple," Lehel said. The monks' response? "Well, I guess they have to look serious all day," he said. "But they were curious about the music."

Soccer was bound to come up. Wachter, the drummer, said, "In Germany, they'll practically shoot you if you're not a fan." The members were in Daegu for the Korea-U.S. match, and sang the praises of the energetic Korean crowd. "We were in Daegu for a short time on the day Korea fought against the United States, and were impressed so much by the people's good spirits," Schulz said.

The high-spirited band wasn't so sure about its future plans. "Nobody knows," Schindler said. "We all have different, strong musical personalities, and will always welcome new influences. You can't eat the same thing every day."

The band will play with Korean traditional musicians at National Theater of Korea near Mount Namsan. The last show is Saturday. For more information, call 02-921-8781.

by Chun Su-jin

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