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Jazz musician Phil Yoon’s bright and summery rhythms

Posted June. 24, 2019 07:26,   

Updated June. 24, 2019 07:26


Jazz artist Phil Yoon (52) released a new album “The Winds from Cuba.” The first song “Yo, Como Esta” is filled with rhythms of Cuba and Brazil. The album appeals to the broader public compared to his second album “Reminiscences of Mom” (2012), which focused more on artistic values. “The music is bright and mood-lifting, especially good in summertime,” he said in a phone interview on Thursday.

All songs have lyrics in Korean and English and based on the Afro-Cuban style that combines Cuba’s traditional rhythms with jazz. But not all songs are up-tempo. “Cloudy Rain” and “Snow on the Moon” feel sorrowful and lonely. The title of the album pays homage to Ernest Hemingway who enjoyed winds from Cuba drinking mojito. He wrote the lyrics and melodies based on the sceneries of Okinawa, Palawan, New Orleans and Jeju Island.

His first album “Homage to Elvin Jones” (2007) was a modern reinterpretation of “Jindo Arirang” and “500 Years,” while this time he grafted “Boating,” “Jindo Arirang” and “500 Years” with Afro-Cuban rhythms.

“I contemplated on my identity as an artist even though I became a jazz musician,” Yoon said. “It is my wish to interpret Western music in a Korean way, which is why I arrange Korean folk songs.”

Yoon, who is serving as the head of the Korea Jazz Association, said many still think jazz is difficult even though it is becoming more popular in the capital area as can be seen in jazz festivals packed with fans.

“There is a statue of Louis Armstrong in New Orleans, the home of jazz. In front of the statue is a saying that goes, ‘His trumpet brought the joy of jazz to the world,’” he said. “I hope more Koreans could feel the joy of jazz.”

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com