From South Korea, via France

A captivating evening with Youn Sun Nah at the Union Chapel. From my review in The Times:

There is a rare theatrical quality to her performances that reflects, perhaps, her interest in chanson. Based in France, where she enjoys an impressive mainstream following, Nah doesn’t possess a conventional jazz voice; her timbre is, in fact, unusually thin at times and her phrasing can seem unduly self-conscious and calculating. Yet her determination to make each number a self-contained art song made this concert — the highlight of the K-Music Korean music and arts festival — a fascinating exercise in contrast and control. There were shades of Ute Lemper at times, although without the hauteur, long legs and self-love. Nah, in contrast, cut a girlish figure on stage (she is in her late forties, but looks much younger) and came close to apologising for some of her more adventurous pieces.

She has found the ideal partner in the Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius — a fellow stalwart of the adventurous ACT label. His restless, percussive playing sometimes created the illusion that the duo had their own secret drummer. The quicksilver, scat-tinged Momento Magico was one of a couple of items with a flamenco influence, while on Mistral Nah added subtle electronic effects to evoke the rushing of the wind. On her solo rendition of My Favourite Things she shifted focus again, adding a spartan cycle of notes on African thumb piano. The Rodgers & Hammerstein standard has never sounded more wistful.

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