People thirsty for stage performances flocked to Nodeul Island, central Seoul on Saturday, seeking to find comfort in jazz music in line with the South Korean government’s “phased return to normal” scheme. It was a perfect day to enjoy jazz music outdoors in spring weather, with the gentle breeze scattering flower petals.
Marking the UNESCO-designated International Jazz Day, the 2022 Seoul Jazz Festa drew roughly 750 music fans who showed their excitement over the return of long-suspended in-person concerts. Since tickets for the six-day festival were sold out in just 20 minutes, those who failed to get a seat brought picnic mats and chairs to enjoy the stage performances from a distance.
Saturday’s event, the highlight of the festival, was comprised of three concerts from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. First was an ensemble performance of five top vocalists, followed by a big band performance accompanied by a jazz vocalist and an R&B singer. Rounding out the evening was a performance by a jazz ensemble made up of first, second and third generation jazz musicians.
The lineup included saxophonist Lee Jung-sik, vocalists Woongsan and Kim Joon, R&B singer Bobby Kim, pianist Shin Guan-woong, trumpet player Choi Sun-bae and guitarist Charlie Jung. They performed various well-known tunes, including “Volare,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Summer Time” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“Welcome to Seoul Jazz Festa, everyone. I hope today’s jazz music performances can heal all the citizens and jazz fans who had to go through a hard time for over two years due to the prolonged COVID-19,” Woongsan, a jazz vocalist and chairman of the Korea Jazz Association, which organized the festival, said.
As the sun went down, hundreds of audience members were immersed in the atmosphere, clapping, dancing and waving their arms in the air. They cheered loudly and shouted “Encore!”
The jazz musicians seemed happy to hear the audience’s rousing cheers and paid them back with passionate performances and an encore.
Among those in the audience were Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, former Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and veteran designer Lie Sang-bong. Oh, who is planning on making Nodeul Island a “global art island,” came up to the stage and hinted that a “stunning change (on the island) is soon to be made.”
Unique performances of jazz melodies mixed with traditional Korean music were also presented at the festival. A jazz ensemble -- pianist and keyboardist Kang Jae-hun, guitarist Charlie Jung, bassist Shin Dong-ha and drummer Im Joo-chan -- performed “Blue Bossa” with daegeum and sogeum player Han Chung-eun.
All the performers gathered on stage, performing Kim Yon-ja’s “Amore Fati” and traditional Korean music-inspired band Leenalchi’s “Tiger is Coming” as well. Rapper MC Sniper made a surprise appearance during the encore performance, adding a hip-hop vibe to the already colorful festival.