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Voyage

Youn Sun Nah

Voyage

Label: Act

Genre: Jazz / Avant Garde

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<p>In our time and age, a jazz singer from Korea may still seem like an exotic concept. But anyone who knows how<br />much effort Asian countries invest in education and promotion also knows about the growing circle of jazz fans in<br />the region. So with notable exceptions it’s astounding that there aren’t more artists from Korea or Japan whose<br />names are on everyone’s lips. However, Youn Sun Nah could change all that, and as the first Korean artist<br />exclusively under contract with ACT, anyone listening to her debut album Voyage (ACT 9019-2) will understand<br />why.<br />Born in 1969 in Seoul, Youn Sun Nah comes from a family of musicians - her father is a conductor and her<br />mother a classical singer. She made her debut in the field of music at the age of 23 but it was not until she turned<br />26 that she decided to make music her profession. This marked the beginning of a stylistic turning point for her:<br />“I’d studied French literature and adored the French chanson, so I decided to go to France,” she says. “But after a<br />while, I got the impression that you have to be French in order to sing chansons, so I concentrated on jazz.”<br />During her studies at the CIM in Paris (the oldest jazz school in Europe) and at the Boulanger Conservatory, Sun<br />Nah had already formed her own quintet in an international setting together with some fellow students. They quickly<br />gained a reputation and were invited to festivals all over France, before going on to record five well received<br />albums in just six years. Youn Sun Nah rose like a comet in her home country. At the first annual Korean Music<br />Awards in 2004, she was voted “Best Artist” in the Crossover category and a year later for “Best Up-and-Coming”<br />young artist in Korea. The same year she also won the renowned “Grand Prix” at the Jazz à Juan Concours in<br />France.<br />Her next step in 2007 would point the way forward. Youn Sun Nah recorded a pop album in Korea entitled<br />Memory Lane. The CD was a bestseller in her home country and she also got the Danish pianist Niels Lan Doky to<br />co-produce. He subsequently brought her to festivals in Denmark where she met the Swedish guitar virtuoso and<br />ACT recording artist Ulf Wakenius. They got along so well that they decided to perform together in Korea and<br />record a CD. Youn Sun Nah tells us, “Originally, it was going to be a duo CD with just the two of us, but Ulf was<br />so busy that we needed a producer. Ulf suggested Lars Danielsson, whom I’d admired for a long time”. One thing<br />led to another. Danielsson not only produced, but also played bass and brought in Norwegian trumpet player<br />Mathias Eick. Eventually the French percussionist Xavier Desandre-Navarre from Lan Doky’s band joined the group.<br />The exquisite quartet displays a distinctly Nordic element on Voyage and was also a great inspiration for Youn<br />Sun Nah. She recalls: “With the band in Paris, somehow it was always about experimenting. We were all quite new<br />to the business when we started working. With Ulf, Lars, Mathias and Xavier, however, I felt relaxed and secure<br />from the first moment on. You don’t need to prove anything to them and that’s why you are even more daring“.<br />Her companions returned the compliment on the spot. “Her wonderful voice is full of feeling and emotion”, says<br />Mathias Eick. Lars Danielsson praised, “her outstanding timing, which is something you don’t find very often with<br />singers”. Xavier Desandre-Navarre summarises: “The tonal range of her voice is fantastic and she is very precise.<br />Her voice has a great capacity and it’s crystal clear. She’s like sunshine.” It’s anything but an ordinary jazz voice;<br />whether she’s scatting, singing classical or rapping, Youn Sun Nah combines mystical and artistic elements of<br />Korean singing with the imagination and purity of the French chanson, together with the energy and freedom of<br />jazz.<br />As Youn Sun Nah’s singing brings together various elements, the repertoire on the album concentrates on<br />diverse predilections. There are six of her own compositions, ranging from melancholic ballads to intricate uptempo<br />tracks. We also find Egberto Gismonti’s “Frevo” as a showpiece for Wakenius, and Nat King Cole’s<br />“Calypso Blues”, which was recommended to her warmly by a French friend. For years Youn Sun Nah has been a<br />great fan of Tom Waits. “I always knew that one day I was gonna sing ‘Jockey full of Bourbon’. Now the time had<br />come”. And what a wonderful contrast Youn Sun Nah’s ethereal version is to the smoky bass of Waits’ original.</p>