Jazz singer seeks a wider audience

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Jazz singer seeks a wider audience

Yun Hui-jeong, 50, is a jazz musician who’s better known among Korean celebrities than to the general public.
She’s given music lessons to many famous people, including musicians ― like pop singers Kim Gun-mo and Lee So-ra ― and people from other fields, like actor Lee Mi-sook, architect Yang Jin-suk and former politician Hong Sa-duk.
More than 20 years after her debut, she is releasing her first album to receive wide distribution, “C.E.O.J (Co-Edutainment Of Jazz).” As its title implies, she hopes to introduce jazz to a wider audience with the album.
Giving jazz broad, popular appeal, however, is not as easy as it might sound. “If I go too light, I will end up being a sell-out. If I go too heavy, the public will turn their back,” said Ms. Yun.
Her many years of performing experience seem to have helped her find a balance.
Ms. Yun made her debut in 1972 with the song “Se-noya.” She was a gospel singer until she entered the world of jazz music in 1992.
Since 1997, she has given concerts under the name “Yun Hui-jeong and Friends,” at which some of the celebrities who’ve learned music from Ms. Yun joined her onstage.
Her new album begins with well-known jazz songs such as “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” a love song with a mambo rhythm composed by Cole Porter. More serious and complicated songs appear later on.
Ms. Yun intentionally arranged the tracks so that they would progress from lighter to more serious jazz.
“Yun Hui-jeong Blues,” toward the end, is a charming blend of Korean traditional rhythms and Latin instruments. Jazz music’s unique key changes are frequent in the song. Lee Jeong-sik’s saxophone sound is astonishingly similar to the sound of the taepyeongso, the Korean traditional wind instrument.
The best instrument on the album, however, is the appealing jazz voice of Yun Hui-jeong herself.
The last song, “Afro Blue,” is an exquisite mixture of various musical elements with an overall feel that evokes Korean traditional music. African and Latin rhythms are cleverly harmonized with Korean gong sound; there’s even some rap in the mix.
“There are many ways to introduce Korean culture to international audiences, other than dancing in hanbok,” she said. “It might be more effective to add Korean color to jazz to introduce our culture.”
But why jazz?
It’s simple, she says: Jazz is the human soul’s most powerful music.
“You see 80- to 90-year-old jazz musicians on stage, and they still look beautifully alive,” she says. “I have no regrets about choosing to devote myself to jazz, because jazz lives forever.”

by Lim Hyun-dong
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