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Jazz legend dies at 77

Jazz vocalist Park Sung-yeon (JNH Music)
Jazz vocalist Park Sung-yeon (JNH Music)


Jazz vocalist Park Sung-yeon died Sunday at the age of 77.

Park, who had kidney failure for more than two decades, had been in a nursing home in western Seoul for the past few years.

The singer is often called the “godmother of jazz music” in South Korea. She opened Janus, the country’s first jazz-only club, in the college district of Sinchon, western Seoul, in 1978.

“Korea, which had been a dead land of jazz music, has now become a thick forest, being home to numerous jazz stars and large international festivals,” JNH Music, which represented the artist, said Sunday. “Janus is the first tree of today’s forest.”

Since its opening, the club has functioned as a hotbed for the local jazz music scene. With her health deteriorating, Park handed the club over to fellow jazz singer Malo in 2015. Malo, who changed the club’s name to Diva Janus, continues to run the club from its new location in Seocho, southern Seoul.

Like many musicians of her time, Park got her start performing for the US military in Korea. She learned jazz music during part-time piano gigs and was drawn to it.

Despite her illness, Park continued to perform. She appeared onstage in a wheelchair last year at the Seoul Forest Jazz Festival. She also collaborated with singer Park Hyo-shin on a new version of her song “The Wind Is Blowing.” Previously, Park returned to the stage at Janus in 2018 to celebrate the club’s 40th anniversary.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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