Night in, night out, Itaewon’s jazz home has still got its chops

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Night in, night out, Itaewon’s jazz home has still got its chops

You blew it, daddy. You were gonna go to that JVC Jazz Festival this week at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts to hear Dianne Reeves sing. You were gonna take that one girl, and wow her with your hipness and verve.
But the tightwad in you balked at the ticket prices, the lowest of which are, like, 40,000 won ($36). And though the festival wraps up tonight, it’s too late to see Ms. Reeves, whose set was scheduled for Thursday.
But don’t fret. Remember, in this town you can dig cool jazz every night of the week, right in your own backyard, and ― in contrast to the Sejong Center ― in an intimate setting. The way jazz is supposed to be dug.
You haven’t been there for a while, but our very own club All That Jazz is still there on Itaewon’s main drag, jumping with live musicians every night of the week.
It’s still the best place in town to take a date. And ― good for you ― it’s still affordable.
The owner, Jin Nak-won, suggests Sundays and Thursdays as the nights to catch the best local musicians. The Sunday spot, in fact, has been held down for years by the Chung Sung-jo Quintet. The group is now in Moscow to do a show at the Kremlin Concert Hall, but will be back in time for this Sunday’s gig, Mr. Jin promises.
On Thursdays, the draw is the Hanguk Jazz Band, a group with a more modern and progressive sound. It’s led by a pianist, Lim In-gun.
Another good night to snare a table is Saturdays, because the piano will be manned by the American expat J.C. Clark, who always keeps things lively. Mr. Clark also plays All That Jazz on the odd Wednesday. Keep an eye on him during the breaks, though, or he’ll come to your table and steal your girlfriend.
If vocals are your thing, ask Mr. Jin when Malo, an exceptionally spirited and soulful singer, is on the schedule. She usually plays All That Jazz once or twice a week, but she’s been a little scarce of late. Evidently she’s been busy with other (higher-paying) gigs.
In fact, if you ever need to know what’s going on jazz-wise in Korea, go ask Mr. Jin. He’s friendly, and his knowledge is vast and deep. He’s owned and run All That Jazz since 1986 (it first opened in 1976), and before that he worked there.
Incidentally, Mr. Jin is planning to open another All That Jazz by the end of the month, this time in downtown Seoul. No doubt it’ll be a good place to go, especially when you’re out with that friend of yours,the one who still refuses to go to Itaewon.
This weekend, though, it’ll be worth your while to bring that special girl to the original All That Jazz. With the festival at the Sejong Center finishing up, there’s always the chance that Ms. Reeves could pop in, the way saxophonist Kenny Garrett did a few years ago when he was in town for a show.
Okay, it’s a long shot. But if it pays off, it’ll pay off big.

by Mike Ferrin
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