▲ Singer Sunny Kim with drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, and guitarist Oh Jeong Soo. Photo by Kim Hyo Jeong
On Aug. 25, outside the cozy Café Seba, Jeju City, cicadas were singing their late summer song and trees were dancing to the rhythms of Jazz singer Sunny Kim, who was whispering her feelings to a crowd of 30 people saturday night.
Sunny Kim — the first Korean jazz singer to perform at the Newport Jazz festival, one of the biggest jazz festivals in the US — was visiting Jeju from New York to perform songs off her latest and first solo album, Painter’s Eye, with drummer Pheeroan Aklaff, and guitarist Oh Jeong Soo.
Sunny Kim told The Weekly that the album was inspired by poems and paintings from the book “U-turning to You” by Kim Sun Doo. She wrote on her album cover that she was mesmerized by the “purity” and “simplicity” of Kim Sun Doo’s writing and could smell the “grass and earth” in his book.
Kim Se Eun, jazz pianist and owner of Café Seba, told The Weekly that Sunny Kim’s music is a bridge between modern and postmodern jazz, and is quite different from what is considered popular modern jazz, but is still rather charming.
Aklaff, Sunny Kim’s drummer for the evening, referred to her as a “Superhero.”
▲ Photo by Kim Hyo Jeong
“Sunny sings like a bird but then suddenly becomes an eagle. She is sometimes like a crawling animal and then becomes a monster. She has a strong voice that reminds me of nature and further than that, the cosmos,” he said to The Weekly.
On that night Sunny Kim sang “In Between,” “Passing,” “Worm,” “Bloom and Wither,” “Painter’s eye,” and “A tree and a bird” from her album. She showed starkly different colors from the first album she worked on, Rosswell Rudd’s “Keep Your Heart Right” (2008, SunnySide), which focused on swing rhythms. Her latest and first solo effort, saw the music take a more free style stance, sometimes with whole pieces consisting mainly of humming.
Her lyrics were packed with simple and restrained onomatopoeias. For example, in her song, “A Tree and a Bird” she sings, “Along side of the river, there are sullen grasses and trees. There is one small bird,” followed by her mimicking the sound of birds flying and trees moving in the wind, which was all of the lyrics for the five-minute song. With only using a few words, onomatopoeias, and the tone of her voice she made the audience envision the flying of birds and the moving of trees.
After the performance, Sunny Kim told The Weekly that she came down Jeju “to get inspiration.” She continued that she was inspired by the audience through communicating and sharing her music with them.
▲ Cafe Seba. Photo by Kim Hyo Jeong
▲ Photo by Kim Hyo Jeong
Sunny described Jeju as “A treasure island where every single thing that I see by walking on the street gives new messages and ideas.”
When asked what her next plan is, she said, “I want to find my own jazz music color by trying out various jazz genres. In that sense, this album Painter’s Eye was one of those trials.”
Which leaves this writer eager to see her next transformation.
Café Seba is a stone-built, charmingly decorated, music cafe where you can listen to jazz and classical music in a cozy atmosphere. The café opened on Dec. 1 last year by jazz pianist Kim Se Eun. The café is open from noon and 6 p.m., and is closed Mondays.
The next performance to be held at the café is on Sept. 9 by Kim Se Eun and Lee Jong Hyeok about Murakami Haruki’s book, “Portraits in Jazz” (2001).
Reservation are needed and seats are first come, first served. Ticket fees: Adults 12,000 won, Teenagers: 10,000 won.
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