JaraSum Jazz Festival, South Korea
Just returned from a whirlwind few days in Seoul, South Korea, and the nearby Jara Island on Gapyeong, where I was a participant in the inaugural JaraSum Jazz Festival, at which I was scheduled to perform solo piano, followed by a workshop for students on Day 2. As it turned out, many of the festival's initial plans had to be re-arranged at the last minute due to a relentless rain that begin early on Saturday Sept. 11th and didn't let up until Monday morning the 13th. Saturday's events, after much delay, were ultimately postponed for some and cancelled for many, a disappointment for particularly such compatriots as guitarist Mike Stern and a fascinating-sounding world-music/jazz inspired group I was hanging out with called "Asia Spirit", as they were eventually all forced to leave without doing a performance, after much initial waiting around. Still, it was refreshing to hang with them all in the hotel lobby in the JaraSum region we were initially brought to while the organizers decided what to do. It's always amazing how kindred spirits musicians can be with one another - there's certainly something about being in the business of harnessing the moment that makes for an openness and sense of embracing the now that is always very inspiring to be around, especially after devoting so much of my time of late to the other half of the equation: sitting in front of my computer, composing, doing business, practicing, and on and on...
On Saturday later in the day I finally met the organizer whom we called "J.J.", who sadly announced the day's cancellation but asked, since I was scheduled to stayover one more day anyway, if I would perform Sunday instead. I happily agreed. On Sunday, the concert almost didn't happen again - the grounds were still utterly muddy, the rain continued it's drizzle, and they had already decided to consolidate several stages into one large stage, featuring artists originally scheduled for that day along with artists such as myself heldover from the day before.
What was ultimately remarkable was that despite the rain, which by the time I performed had reached a literal torrent, a crowd certainly at least in the hundreds still dutifully and passionately sat, some with umbrellas, most with blue raincoats thankfully handed out by festival organizers, for the entire day's festivities. Between each act, the organizers hurriedly swept the stage of vast puddles of water, and on occasion the blue canopy they had erected that day to cover the area where the musicians were performing would swell with water, resulting in random floods around the perimeter of my playing area. As I began my set, there was a particular upsurge of rain, and it got so bad that as I routinely tapped my feet as I played, large splashes of water bounced up all around me. Frankly, I was a little afraid of being electrocuted (!), but they had everything under control, and the crowd was amazingly receptive and dedicated.
This was the first JaraSum Jazz Festival, and if the passionate devotion of the fans and organizers despite the many Nature-based obstacles was a clue, it will not be the last.