Under the warm sun, soothing breeze and fresh air, tens of thousands of jazz lovers and music fans enjoyed a diverse range of jazz music and live performances at this year’s Seoul Jazz Festival, held at Olympic Park on Saturday and Sunday.
SJF, one of the largest outdoor music festivals of the year, took place at three stages set up throughout the park where big names in the world of jazz, internationally famous musicians and popular local acts performed.
The largest and most popular spot at the festival was the main outdoor stage, where thousands of people hung out on picnic mats and chairs on the grass while live music filled the air.
Saturday featured an eclectic lineup that included local acts Beenzino and Jang Kiha and the Faces; English R&B singer Craig David; world-famous Latin jazz legend Eddie Palmieri and his band; and Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice.
One highlight was the exuberant, 80-minute session of Afro-Caribbean jazz by the 77-year-old, nine-time Grammy-winning Palmieri and his six-piece band.
The band showcased a full program filled with endless beats, Palmieri’s rhythmic pianism and dazzling solos from every instrumentalist including the double bass, alto saxophone, trumpet, timbales, congas, bongos and cowbell.
The band’s performance was lively, driven and, above all, festive. An undying sense of momentum could be felt throughout each song. The strings of knockout solos and beats were played with such enthusiasm that there was no time to feel tired or bored.
In fact, the band seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience was having a good time. Palmieri often broke into enthusiastic outbursts during his solos and even danced cha-cha at times for the cheering crowd.
Also Saturday, folk singer-songwriter Damien Rice delivered a heartfelt headline performance. With only a single electric acoustic guitar, Rice delivered each of his songs with great emotional intensity, sometimes singing as if whispering and at other times, bellowing out passionate tunes that gripped the audience.
Rice also led quite an interactive program, at times sharing how he came to write a certain song such as “Older Chests” and at other times inviting a female fan on stage to sing the duet “Cold Waters” together.
Rice even played out a skit with a female fan before finishing off his scheduled program with “Cheers Darlin,’” during which the two drank several glasses of wine on stage. The singer-songwriter fittingly closed the night by singing his most popular hit, “The Blower’s Daughter.”
The second day of SJF featured more performances by the famous American jazz artist Jack DeJohnette, Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini, R&B singer Eric Benet, local band Urban Zakapa, Erlend Oye from the popular folk duo Kings of Convenience, as well as the headlining pop-jazz English artist Jamie Cullum.
As the closing artist of the SJF, Jamie Cullum rolled out on stage with an action-filled, two-hour performance on Sunday. Cullum hammered out flawless pop-infused jazz melodies on the grand piano, all the while dancing around on stage, slapping out percussion beats on the piano and even beat-boxing. His accompanying jazz band was equally stellar in its own right, enhancing Cullum’s vocals and piano melodies with various colors and sounds.
Cullum delivered a mixture of his own jazz-pop compositions such as “When I Get Famous” ― a story about a boy who decides to become really good at playing the piano to get girls to notice him ― as well as sultry covers of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry.”
After several energetic encores which had the audience jumping en masse, Cullum closed the festival and the night with a heartfelt cover of the classic crowd favorite “Gran Torino.”
By Sohn Ji-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)