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The road to No.1

Jarasum International Jazz Festival strives to be Korea’s best. By Hwang Deok-ho(Jazz Critic)

Written by
jin soo lee
Every autumn, people excitedly make their way to Jaraseom Island. This year will be no exception as people head over to catch the 12th Jarasum International Jazz Festival. There are a number of reasons behind the festival’s success. One being, that there aren’t many occasions where you pay an affordable price of about 50,000 won and sit outside all day listening to jazz, eat delicious food and hang out with your friends. In that sense, Jarasum International Jazz Festival perfectly suits the wants and needs of festivalgoers; most of whom will definitely have a good time there.
But there are detractors as well who say that the festival is not putting enough focus on jazz itself. And yes, I agree with this sentiment. To start off, their sound systems definitely have room for improvement. This problem is actually more musical than technical. There are a lot of bands and soloists who go up up on stage during the festival, but there seems to be little to no consideration or understanding regarding
these artists’ sounds. By failing to resolve these types of issues, the Jaraseom Festival will continue to be a jazz festival without jazz sounds. In 2014, at Joachim Kühn’s solo performance, his high-toned piano sound, which is closer to European classical music than jazz, was sullied to sounding more like a mix between electric and acoustic. If this was bound to happen due to type the sound systems used for
larger stages, they should have given more consideration to the size of the stage. For these reasons, I am rather cautious about recommending this festival to those who are serious jazz listeners. On top of that, I have the impression that this year’s lineup for the festival’s main stage is made up of lesserknown artists. The organizers of the festival might be offended by my opinion and no other media will ever dare to point this out. 
But I genuinely hope that my opinion turns out to be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding and at the end of the day, it is my wish that the music of these rather obscure artists would touch the hearts of their audience members. No matter what the case is, there is a list of “must-listen-to artists” who will perform on the festival’s main stage. Spyro Gyra will be opening the festival. Many of you may think of
Fourplay when it comes to smooth jazz, but Spyro Gyra is a legendary group that has been around for 41 years and that is both popular and talented. Founding bandleader and saxophonist Jay Beckenstein and original band member, keyboardist Tom Schuman are still with the band. And their signature sounds and melodies are still going strong. On the second day of the festival, Richard Bona will be on stage. He is a bassist and a vocalist who opened up a new era of jazz in the 21st century and his excellent bass skills are reminiscent of the late jazz
musician Jaco Pastorius. On top of that, his beautiful hums and voice clearly represent his identity as a jazz artist from Cameroon. His special talent in music was clearly shown through his collaborative work with other artists such as Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and Bobby McFerrin. If you are a jazz aficionado, check out the festival’s side stage as well. You can experience the music of young Korean
jazz musicians like Maeil Nonet, whose swing sound is splendid and delightful; guitarist Cho Eung-min, who is a skilled, delicate player; the Han Woong-won Band, who are known for their teamwork and improvisations; pianist Chon Yong-jun, who plays both the classics and contemporary music; and last but not least, Heo So-young, who should have already been named Korea’s top jazz vocalist. Jarasum
International Jazz Festival is undeniably one of the most important festivals in the domestic jazz scene. Plus, there are a lot of people who tend to just enjoy jazz once a year by attending this festival. There is little room for disagreement that Jarasum International Jazz Festival has played a leading role in making jazz a part of Korea’s culture. But only good taste in music and sensible choices will make it possible for the festival and jazz itself to make a jump to the next big beat.
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