written by: drowningn00b
As a genre, smooth jazz combines pop, R&B, and ballad elements to make jazz palatable for new audiences. It’s easier to listen to Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum than John Coltrane and Miles Davis, for instance. Korean musicians understand this and create music that’s new and at the same time familiar.
Korean “jazz” has the above mentioned elements, plus mainstays like indie and electronic parts. For his latest release, pianist Yoonhan assembled a jazz band to create the smooth pop style of “For this Moment”. A collection of well crafted and deliberately produced tracks in every shade of nostalgia, “Moment” never commands, but rather calmly calls for attention.
For “Moment”, Yoonhan split the record in two – one part for vocal pieces and another part for instrumentals. Vocally, Yoonhan is not mind blowing, but has great control over his voice and register. This is clear in the humorous tale of a foreign one-night stand in “From Paris to Amsterdam”. His English singing is clear and is sung well enough to show the comedy in the French (and Korean) obsession with sex, coffee, and cigarettes. “Cappuccino” is an extension of this delivery (minus the humor), and its acoustic counter-part has Yoonhan showing fully his capabilities as a vocalist and musician. This piano and acoustic guitar rearrangement takes the wide-eyed young love and indie approach of the original and jumps twenty years ahead. From the change in Yoonhan’s singing to long and smooth phrasing – to the calmer production – it feels like the married couple looking back at their first meeting at a coffee shop. The addition of vocal layers gives a richer tone and the barely-there guitar is a symbol of that young love. “Cappuccino” and “Cappuccino (Acoustic)” serve as great bookends to the love story of the album and are made better in Yoonhan’s hands as an artist.
Like a movie, the body of Yoonhan’s tale is broken up with pieces of nostalgia. Here lie Yoonhan’s talent as a pianist and composer. “For This Moment” and “Travel” are of someone reminiscing of what that love mentioned above was about. “For this Moment” is a painful and melancholy piano ballad, with a slow and deliberate pace, and accented by rain. “Travel” builds on that with guitar and airport sounds. But the genius on this album is the xylophone-centric “Because of You”. Like other ballads on the record, “Because of You” is plaintive with a somber piano, but the xylophone adds a bright and wistful quality. The contrast works in its favor, creating that mood of looking back fondly, and it’s intensified with the addition of drums and strings. Then, instead of the common break, “Because of You” does something I haven’t heard in modern music; Yoonhan creates a movement.
Basically, it’s a section in a longer song that’s independent, with its own tempo and structure. The movement changes the mood, becoming darker in tone and rhythm. It doesn’t feel out of place, but if the movement was missing, “Because of You” would go on and on for four minutes. Love isn’t easy and has hard moments, which Yoonhan imagines beautifully. His piano work is fantastic and this album shows off that talent very well.
In many respects, Yoonhan’s “For this Moment” is a concept album akin to one of Haruki Murakami’s coming of age novels. In a rainy day, someone is looking back on his/her life and reminisces on a past love, with its awkward growth in sex, travel, love and hardships. What that hardship is not always clear, and neither why this look back is necessary, but the way the tale is told makes the difference. Clear singing, brilliant piano playing and creative song composition adds up to a great record.