Youn Sun Nah, a jazz artist born and raised in Seoul, Korea, has performed all over the world, but her upcoming performance at the Kirkland Performance Center on June 24, will be her first time performing in the Seattle area.

“What’s not to be excited about when history has noted amazing musical history streaming from Seattle?” she said. “I look forward to discovering local acts and exploring the Emerald City with its rich arts culture.”

Music has always been a major part of Nah’s life. She grew up in a musical family where her father was a conductor and her mother, a musical actress.

Nah began her own musical career at the age of 23, performing with the Korean Symphony Orchestra. Though she was making waves in the Korean music scene, she decided to move to Paris in 1995 at the suggestion of a close friend of hers to study jazz and French chanson at the CIM Jazz School. While living in Paris, Nah was exposed to Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday. She also studied at the National Music Institute of Beauvais, as well as the Nadia and Lili Boulanger Conservatory. Although relatively new to the genre, Nah excelled at jazz, which she mixed with Asian folk and avant-garde pop.

“Coming from a music family, I’m really fortunate to be exposed to various genres of music,” said Nah. “I enjoy the freedom jazz offers to musicians that want to explore.”

Jazz singer Youn Sun Nah will perform Monday, June 24 at Kirkland Performance Center.
Jazz singer Youn Sun Nah will perform Monday, June 24 at Kirkland Performance Center.

Once described by a French newspaper as “a UFO touching the universe of jazz with a magnificent voice and passionate originality,” Nah showcases her quirks and unique vocal ability on her newest album, “Lento,” released March of this year. The album features an original take on a diverse range of songs, from the Korean folk song “Arirang,” to the Johnny Cash classic, “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” Joining her on the album are guitarist Ulf Wakenius, bassist Lars Danielsson and percussionist Xavier Desandre-Navarre, as well as French accordionist Vincent Peirani (who co-wrote with Nah the songs “Empty Dream” and “Full Circle”). Already, “Lento” has hit the top of the charts in South Korea and Europe, ranking #1 on iTunes.

“The songs you hear on the album are songs that have moved me personally,” said Nah. “I think albums show my personal musical journey and progression as I continue to explore and pursue my passion, which is music.”

In France, her second album, “Same Girl” — which includes many of the same artists on her most recent album — was the best-selling jazz album of the year and was certified gold in France when it came out in 2010. She was also granted the French title of nobility “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in recognition of her contributions to the arts. In addition, her 2009 album, “Voyage,” received the “Best Jazz and Crossover Record of the Year” at the 6th Annual Korean Music Awards. The Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism also presented her with the Young Artist of the Year Award in 2005.

“I am really grateful that Koreans are responding well to jazz music as well as my version of it,” said Nah.

She noted that South Korea now has one of the largest jazz festivals in Asia, the Jarasum International Jazz Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. It had 200,000 people in attendance last year, Nah added.

She is looking forward to performing both new and older songs in front of a Seattle audience.

“Music is a conversation between the performing musicians and I,” Nah said. “Sometimes, it could be quite an exciting chatter or a monologue when I perform a solo piece. I’d like to see my music as an interaction with the audience.”

Youn Sun Nah will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 24th  at the Kirkland Performance Center at 350 Kirkland Avenue in Kirkland.

Tickets are $30 general and $60 VIP, which include a post-show meet-and-greet with Nah. For tickets or more information, call (425) 893-9900 or visit www.kpcenter.org. For more about Youn Sun Nah, visit www.younsunnah.com.

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