James Andrews performs at the first Jeonju Street Jazz Festival in South Korea

James Andrews. Photo courtesy of the arist.

South Korea hosted its first street jazz festival on the weekend of June 17-19 in the city of Jeonju. Several New Orleans musicians performed at the event in Hanok Village, accompanied by Alana Harris, deputy director of arts and culture in the mayor’s office of cultural economics.

“I’m proud of our artists and the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy for working to create this enduring partnership with Jeonju, in the south Koreasaid Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “My administration has been proactive in starting and reviving international relations and exchanges, which allow New Orleans to take advantage of its place as a truly international cultural and economic center. Our culture, with its strong historical roots, vibrant presence and hopeful future, only benefits from sharing and learning from cultures around the world. I look forward to a long and productive relationship with Jeonju.

The street jazz festival was headlined by James Andrews and the Crescent City All-Stars. Several Korean jazz groups also performed, including the Brassonit Big Band, considered one of the best big bands in South Korea, the Lee-Kun-hee quintet, the Lim In-gun group and BMK, a figure of figurehead of the Korean soul genre. Other performers included Kim Seung-su, Kim Ju-hwan, and DK Hwang.

“It is an honor for the city of New Orleans and its musicians to participate in the first Jeonju Jazz Festival,” said Lisa Alexis, director of the mayor’s office of cultural economy. “This opportunity to share the richness and uniqueness of New Orleans culture with our friends and partners in the southern city Korea is invaluable to New Orleans as a city and to our artists, who will gain international exposure and experience. We hope this will be the start of a new tradition between our two cities and we look forward to continuing to benefit each other by passing on our cultural gifts.

According to Victor MK Kaye, jazz first arrived on the Korean Peninsula in 1926 with the Korean Jazz Band. The music, writes Kaye, “would not be considered a pure form of jazz but at that time in Korea, ‘jazz’ also referred to various styles of Western music: swing, jazz, blues and music performed by large bands “. South Korea’s first jazz club opened in 1976: “Chinese-American Myeong-Deok Ma opened the jazz club, All That Jazz, in the Itaewon district of Seoul. In the club, he played music from high-quality jazz albums he had brought from the United States. It also gave performers the ability to play traditional bebop jazz. There are now around 40 jazz clubs across the country.

Willie J. Johnson