Album Title: Voyage
Performer: Youn Sun Na
Label: ACT Music
Play Time
: 55'14"
Recorded: June 2008

With my first music review, I'd like to give a hand to Ken who has taken charge of these pages' Jazz outings. But be assured that I shall assist the two guys hot on classical music as soon as possible. For today, Youn Sun Nah really brings some much needed fresh air to vocal jazz music. Perhaps jazz vocalists have never flourished quite as they do today but does that mean we've got much innovation nowadays? Exceptions exist of course.
I could refer to the American Patricia Barber (Mythologies is an astonishing example), to the Canadian Karen Young (her last Electro-Beatniks demonstrates once more just how talented she is)... and of course to Youn Sun Nah.

Like the two other ladies, she not only knows how to play but also how to write music. She already is a great composer and most of the cuts of her two last albums are original and remarkable compositions of her pen. Youn Sun Nah grew up in a South Korean musicians' family. Her mother is a famous opera singer, her father conducts the national choir of South Korea. It should have been quite difficult for their daughter to avoid learning music. Listening to our Korean singer, one enters another universe. Her voice is a rare gem that mixes finesse and purity.

To envision the beauty of her voice, you have to imagine Youn Sun Nah a hybrid singer who travels the boundaries of classical and jazz but also combines Korean roots with Western influences. Her technique is astonishing, her pitch fantastic. Her very particular timbre makes comparisons difficult. Some Jazz fans recognize Jeanne Lee or Susanne Abbuehl, pop fans Bjork or Kate Bush but trust me, Youn Sun Nah is a unique phenomenon. She is capable of exploring various musical styles by imposing her own personality with a voice full of deep emotion. In my opinion, Youn Sun Nah is a unique performer in the world's jazz scene and one of the most talented contemporary jazz vocalists.

Her latest Voyage is a truly mature effort. As the title suggests, it makes you travel in various places - Scandinavia, France, the United States and of course Korea. "The recording is a blend of Nordic cool and some influences from middle Europe, Brazil and Asia" declares guitarist Ulf Wakenius, the project's main sideman.

Compared to the previous So I am, Voyage reveals a quieter atmosphere. The storm of the Korean sea has been replaced by the calmness of the local mountains. Korea is sometime called the land of the morning calm and here Youn truly discloses her origins. When I met her in Paris two months ago, I was very proud to tell her how she has made enormous progress between her two albums - and So I am remains highly relevant.

Have you ever heard a Korean interpret Brazilian songs? Probably not. Well, I can only say you are missing some important musical education. Youn's performance on "Frevo" is tremendous, true to the spirit of Egberto Gismonti while progressively outshining the original. "Calypso Blues" (Nat King Cole) and "Jockey Full of Bourbon" (Tom Waits) are reinvented as well but as mentioned previously, it's Youn's voice and her own compositions that are at the center of this album. "My bye", "Voyage" and "Inner Prayer" are stunningly beautiful ballads. It seems difficult at first thought to gather three such new masterpieces on a single vocal jazz album by a relative newcomer. But Youn Sun Nah succeeds at the impossible...