Jazz is at the core of their extended family harmonyLast Friday night at Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, North Jeolla province, Chung Jae-yeol, 35, and Ben Ball, 31, played a concert called Jazz Fever. If you had been there listening to the pleasant sounds, you might have wondered how the duo came to be so in tune. More on this later.
Mr. Chung and Mr. Ball, a Canadian, both teach practical music at the Paekche Institute of Arts.
They met in 1990 in Canada just after Mr. Chung had dropped out of the University of Toronto, where he was studying economics. He transferred to Humber College to study jazz guitar. Mr. Ball was already studying jazz drum at Humber.
Though Mr. Chung had emigrated to Canada with his family as a teenager, his roots called him back to Korea after he graduated. In 1995, he invited Mr. Ball to come to Korea to perform.
The duo, Mr. Chung on guitar and Mr. Ball on drums, has recorded four albums since then. And they have played together for the last two years at a small theater in Jeonju. Though certainly not stars, they are making a name for themselves.
Mr. Ball is learning Korean traditional music. He plays janggu, a double-headed, hourglass-shaped drum. He says he finds the sound fascinating and plans to incorporate the instrument into his compositions.
In some ways, both men say, Mr. Chung is not as Korean as Mr. Ball, who eats bosintang, dog meat soup, a delicacy Mr. Chung turns his nose up at, and other Korean food he likely had never heard of in Canada.
Their most recent album, “The In-Laws,” features only guitar and drums, which they say is quite rare for a jazz album.
“We must have had some relationship in another life,” Mr. Chung says. “We both were born on different continents thousands of miles apart, yet somehow we ran into each other and now we are even related.”
What Mr. Chung is referring to is family ties: Mr. Ball married Mr. Chung’s cousin in 1997.
“Ben came to my brother’s wedding and saw my cousin playing the piano,” Mr. Chung says. “From then on he would go every morning to the church where her father is the pastor.”
And the ties that bind the two do not end there. At Mr. Ball’s wedding, a friend of the bride caught Mr. Chung’s eye. A year later Mr. Chung and the woman were married.
Mr. Chung says the close relationship helps as they both can sense what the other is trying to do. “I think it is reflected in our music,” he says. “Without saying much we mix it up well, but we also motivate each other to be better.”
by Chang Jae-suk