Text Bakker & Boer | Pics Peter Putters and Nico Brons (Amersfoort Jazz)

Due to the pandemic measures, the Dutch yearly festival Amersfoort Jazz took place online this year. The organization presented 19 Dutch World Jazz acts online to an international audience at home. On the one hand, the live audience was sorely missed, on the other it was a true showcase for current Dutch World jazz in optima forma. The emphasis was on wayward women in music, with he International renowned saxophonist, composer and leader Tineke Postma, the young and talented Kika Sprangers and Irene Reig, wonderful singer songwriter Margiet Sjoerdsma, Miles Davis interprator Ellister van der Molen. And above all, Amsterdam based Korean drummer Sun-Mi Hong was rightly proclaimed as artist in residence by a festival profiled as a stage par excellence for the Next Generation of World Jazz.

Sun-Mi Hong

We have covered it before in our ProgJazz magazine: Sun-Mi Hong is the greatest revelation of nowadays jazz, with her imaginative, creative and intelligent way of playing. Her playing seems to increae with each gig we witness. Inspired and inspiring, always and everywhere with full commitment. Hong combines sensuality with intellect, which is titillating. Hopefully, Sun -who is clearly on the brink of an international career-, will continue to live in the Netherlands for a while.

Photo Peter Putters

Artist in Residence

Since the extensive attention in the Dutch jazzmedia, the story of Sun-Mi Hong is well known, but for those who do not know her yet, we recapitulate here. She grew up in a strictly religious environment in South Korea and had to move heaven and earth to allowed drum lessons. She studied hard, before coming to the Netherlands and study in Amsterdam, At first, she had a hard time, because she couldn't speak English. Soon her talent was recognized by her teachers, fellow students and finally the whole Dutch jazzscene centered around the Amsterdam BIMhuis. As the crisis cut a merciless streak through the international tour of about 60 concerts, the festival Amersfoort Jazz persisted in presenting her as its Artist in Residence to its international audience and network, with Alto for Two and the Sun-Mi Hong Quintet.

Organic suite

We have seen the little South Korean a few times before with her quintet, invariably consisting of Alistair Payne, Alessandro Fongaro, Nicolò Ricci and Young Woo Lee. The performance on Sunday afternoon at the theater De Lieve Vrouw was the superlative of this series. The music (coming from the album 'A Self Strewn Portrait') is an organic suite, evolving from silence to brute force, then swaying to dreamy repetition of Ravellian and Debussian chords, with extended melody lines. Subtle polyrhythmic, playing with timbre, relief and space. Balanced, innovative, organic post-bop-almost-free-jazz, in which the diverse qualities of the five are used to the utmost. One of the key-qualities of this quintet is that the musicians respond very well to each other, which is necessary in the context of such challenging compositions, without sounding too polished, routined or predictable.

The amiable drummer leads her men through her music with a seemingly free but in fact strong hand. Slightly curved and leaning forward, she devours her drum kit with a surprising intensity, making her cymbals rattle and her toms sing. Though the likes of Tony Williams and Christian Vander pop up in our heads, it might be these names are (yet) unfamiliar to Hong. Her blows echo in our heads, next to the picture of Sun beating her traditional buk-drums in the enchanting song 'Kasi', bombarded by Amersfoort Jazz as the anthem of the event.


Photo Nico Brons