[Weekender] Ripening autumn nights at Jarasum Intl Jazz Fest
By Han Sang-hee
What is fall without the swirling breeze, beautiful moonlit evenings and, of course, a hint of jazz?
The 7th annual Jarasum International Jazz Festival will be held from Oct. 15 to 17 on the scenic island located in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, and is expected to create a stir among music fans with its huge scale and impressive lineup.
Taking small, meaningful steps
When The Korea Times met jazz vocalist Nah Youn-sun a year ago for an interview, the 41-year-old could not stop talking about the Jarasum Jazz Festival.
The jazz world being relatively small and well connected, Nah was surprised while she was on tour in Germany when she found a performance engineer wearing a t-shirt that bore the name “Jarasum International Jazz Festival.”
“I was so surprised but that’s what a good festival does. Rumors spread quickly and I have heard so many artists who have just fallen in love with the local festival,” she said.
She advised people to brace themselves for the festival this year as well, as the gala is bigger and better than the previous six years.
“I would have to say that this year will be the best year ever. It has become much easier to attract artists from around the world. We actually get a lot of calls from foreign agencies, saying their artists want to appear at the festival as part of their Asian tour,” J.J. In, artistic director of the festival, told The Korea Times during a phone interview.
Indeed, this is a great improvement considering the first couple of years when it was hard to convince local audiences and singers to come to the event.
“It’s a big difference and we hope this continues in the future,” the director added.
The Internet and television channels may help a lot in enjoying music nowadays, but jazz cannot be appreciated through the small screen and earphones: you must immerse yourself into the whole package of vocals, the band and the overall atmosphere.
“Tickets sales are continuously going up. Who knows, the island might just sink on us!” the director said laughing.
According to In, the lineup is bigger and better than ever.
A total of 34 top groups from Korea and abroad will offer their tunes, while some 30 amateur bands will also have the chance to show off their talents as well.
The event has five stages — Jazz Island (the main stage), the Party Stage, Jazz Cube, Jazz Palette and the Festival Lounge.
The main Jazz Island stage will feature some of the most critically acclaimed jazz musicians, including the Watts Project from the United States, P.A.F. from Italy and Tania Maria from Brazil, while the Party Stage and Jazz Cube will have a more open schedule after sunset. Meanwhile, the Festival Lounge and Jazz Palette stages will be open for aspiring local jazz artists and residents of Gapyeong.
Along with the Watts Project and P.A.F., must see artists also include Kyle Eastwood and Candy Dulfer & Band.
Eastwood is the son of actor and film director Clint Eastwood and has been in the jazz scene for more than a decade, releasing four albums and working on films such as “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Invictus.” The 42-year-old is expected to dazzle the crowd with melodic tunes from his albums, original soundtracks and all-time favorites.
Candy Dulfer is a popular Dutch jazz alto saxophonist, who started playing the instrument at the age of six. Also known as the “Madonna of the jazz world,” the 41-year-old artist will show off her music that ranges from jazz, rock, R&B and even hip-hop at the festival.
Local artists such as the Lee Pan Geun Project will also give special performances. The band was formed to pay tribute to Lee, one of the first generation jazz artists in Korea, and the five members will offer Lee’s numbers with a more modern twist. For those who want to listen to what Korean jazz was like in the 1950s and 60s, this session will be the perfect opportunity.
This year, the festival has shortened the traveling distance from one performance venue to the other, after they received audience comments saying it was hard to catch each performance at the designated time. Thus, the committee has arranged 10 stages all within a 10-minute walking distance.
Meanwhile, the JJ stages — JJ Station, JJ Club and the JJ Spot — will offer a lighter experience. The JJ Station will be set up on the square next to Gapyeong Station, while the JJ club will be located in a park where Jazz Palette is set up and offers simple snacks and beer for a more relaxing evening. The JJ Spot stages will be held throughout the festival at different places, surprising visitors and offering short and simple performances.
On Oct. 16, Jeff “Tain” Watts, the renowned drummer from the Watts Project, will give a workshop at the Gapyeong town office at 2 p.m., while on the last day, Oct. 17, Lee Pan-geun, one of the first generation of Koreans jazz artists will give a special performance with his band the Lee Pan Geun Project.
Another interesting and fun part of the festival is the additional events that include eateries, drinks, markets and exhibitions.
A walkway through JJ Street, which will connect one venue to the other, visitors can find an art market, free market and also eatery stands installed by Gapyeong residents.
This year, the festival is launching its own brand of wine and “makgeolli,” or Korean rice wine, called Jarasum Wine and Jazz Makgeolli.
“The taste is, of course, important, but we would like to offer something visitors can take home as special gifts and souvenirs,” the director said.
“As I always say, you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the festival. Just come with your friends and family, and have a special experience at the scenic island with beautiful jazz,” he said.
The festival runs from Oct. 15 to 17 at Jarasum, Gapyeong. Tickets for one day cost 25,000 won, two days for 40,000 and a three-day pass for 50,000 won.
The performances are free with the exception of Jazz Island and the Party Stage. For more information, including the lineup, schedules and tips to enjoy the event, visit www.jarasumjazz.com or call (031) 581-2813.