A couple of months ago, my wife excitedly informed me that she’d discovered the existence of a jazz club in Sejong City, only about a ten minute drive from our home. The place is called Jazzin Lab and they hold regular concerts, of which I’ve now had the chance to attend a couple. Both groups performing were new to me, but both were really outstanding, so I thought I’d do a little writeup while they’re fresh in my mind.
The first group was a quartet led by Tony Lakatos, who is well-known in Europe as a tenor player. While I can’t credit the concert with motivating me to pick up my saxes again—I’ve been working on that for a while—it was a kick in the pants to get back to seriously playing. Among the things that stood out for me with this group were the effortlessness with which everyone seemed to play; the fluidity of the interplay between the bassist and drummer (Minchan Kim and Daeho Kim), the creativity of Paul Kirby’s comping, and of course Tony Lakatos’ resonant and beautiful tone on the tenor saxophone. It looks like the rhythm section are all local, so I don’t think there’s footage of Lakatos with them, but here’s a video of him playing Giant Steps in a reggae style with a different group:
The show with Thomas Strønen & Time is a Blind Guide was way on the other side of the spectrum: they’re the kind of group that tends toward more free improvisation. The instrumentation, too, is quite different: piano, drums, contrabass, cello, and violin. They hail from Norway and the UK, apparently, and have a very unique sound. Everyone was playing beautifully and the show had a pretty big impact on me, sort of hanging around in my consciousness even now, days later. One of the things that really struck me is the “acoustic-ness” of the group: the fact that everyone was playing an acoustic instrument and how little nuances and variations in technique—how a string was plucked or stopped, how a piano string was touched directly, how a cymbal or tom was struck or brushed—had a huge effect on the overall composite sound. I was extremely impressed, I’ll say that. Here’s a chunk of a live performance by Time is a Blind Guide with, I think, the same personnel as as the gig I saw (as the players have varied a bit over the years):
During the show, Strønen mentioned Bobo Stenson, and I was thinking, “Am I really still in Sejong City?” Well, I was actually thinking that the whole way through the show, as a very large and extremely attentive audience listened to this free-improv, third-stream-ish kind of avant-garde music. It was a very memorable time, I’ll put it that way, and my only complaint was that it was rather a short performance. (Which feels miserly given what a fine musical gift it ultimately was.)
Jazzin Lab is a cool little club/project that goes beyond just hosting gigs. There’s a library there for on-site listening and browsing, and if I’m reading the website correctly, the founder teaches jazz piano and theory, too. Maybe next year, once I complete my new tunes memorization project, I’ll consider signing up for some piano lessons, if she’ll take a student who has almost no background in piano. (I dutifully learned my I-VI-V-Is in my mandatory piano course but beyond that my experience is limited to working out stuff while composing, or noodling around.) Not that I expect to get far on the piano, but learning some basics and being able to play progressions more easily would be nice, and probably helpful to me in other areas.
In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing more gigs there, if nothing else! We’re lucky to have a place like this in Sejong City.