Jazz festival to bring the soul to Seoul

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Jazz festival to bring the soul to Seoul


This year’s lineup for the Seoul Jazz Festival features high-profile international acts (from left), The Swell Season, Madeleine Peyroux, Wouter Hamel and Omar Sosa. Provided by the organizer

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) once said, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”

As the American jazz great implied, when it comes to this genre of music it’s important to be there and actually feel it, which allows you to interpret and define the sounds in your own way.

Koreans will get a chance to do just that (if they haven’t already) this month at the upcoming Seoul Jazz Festival. The event will bring a host of big names in the jazz circuit to town - many of them playing their first-ever gigs in Korea - and showcase several different styles of jazz.

Tower of Power, for instance, is a 10-member horn-based soul band from California. Over the past 40 years the band has recorded 18 studio albums and collaborated with hundreds of artists ranging from Aerosmith and Elton John to Santana.

Although Tower of Power has toured extensively over the years, this marks its first visit to Korea. The band will perform as part of “Funky Groove Night” on May 17, the closing night of the festival.

For those who think jazz is romantic, be sure to check out Dutch singer Wouter Hamel and American jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux. The two artists will perform on May 16, dubbed “Romantic Jazz Night.”

“It will be my first time, also for my band, in Korea,” Hamel said. “So we can’t wait to finally see Korean fans and Korea.”

According to Chu Na-hyeon, the event’s organizer, the planned performances of rising jazz artists like Peyroux and Hamel is an indication that Seoul Jazz Festival has garnered the reputation as the “it” festival among jazz musicians worldwide.

“Seoul Jazz Festival has become more famous among jazz musicians than jazz fans. So inviting the artists wasn’t as hard as it used to be,” said Chu. This is the festival’s third year.

There will be familiar faces, too. The Swell Season - Irish musician Glen Hansard and Czech pianist and singer Marketa Irglova, from the film “Once,” - will return to Seoul after their hugely popular show in January to perform for two nights. Omar Sosa, a Cuban jazz pianist, will open this year’s festival.

The Seoul Jazz Festival will be held from May 14 to 17 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Seoul. Gwanghwamun subway station, line No. 5, exit 1 or 8. Tickets start at 44,000 won ($34.71). For more information, visit www.seouljazz.co.kr.

By Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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