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Sungjae Son

The Near East Quartet has been a force in Korean music since 2010, juxtaposing elements of contemporary jazz and traditional Korean music with pure sound exploration to create new forms. Saxophonist/clarinettist Sungjae Son and guitarist Suwuk Chung have been members from the outset, and the group has been strengthened with the integration of pansori singer Yulhee Kim and highly creative drummer Soojin Suh. On their ECM debut the NEQ plays five compositions by Sungjae Son and three Korean traditionals. Near East Quartet was recorded in Seoul, and mixed at Studios La Buissonne. Producer: Sun Chung.

The ECM debut of the Near East Quartet was recorded in Seoul in December 2016. The group, however, has been a force in Korean creative music since 2009, when leader-saxophonist-composer Sungjae Son formed the band with guitarist Suwuk Chung. Singer-percussionist Yulhee Kim and drummer Soojin Suh joined the group in 2015, helping the ensemble get closer to Son’s original vision of a natural music informed by improvisation and drawing upon gugak, the multi-facetted traditional music of Korea.

Together the four musicians play a floating music of drifting texture and slowly-blossoming sound colours, expressed through distortion saturated guitar sounds, the delicate tracery of Son’s saxophone, and abstract playing from the drums. Yulhee Kims’s evocative voice conveys messages from pansori epics and folk song. Kim also contributes to the improvisatory flow as percussionist, and on one piece, “Baram”, the quartet is augmented by Sori Choi on traditional Korean percussion.

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