Kim Oki – Yun Hyong-keun
This was probably the most difficult selection on this list. When having to choose between the gorgeous landscapes and structure of “For My Angel” and the wild rawness of “Yun Hyong-keun,” I was torn beyond anything. Both of Kim Oki’s albums last year were profound. Two ends of a similar spectrum. In the end, though, I had to choose this concept piece. Ultimately because it’s a multisensory experience. Viewing the work of the artist who’s at the heart of the album’s namesake while listening gives “Yun Hyong-keun” a depth of vision that’s just undeniable. An album like this is exactly the reason why Kim Oki is one of my favorite artists in Korea. Reverential to the free jazz that birthed him. A throbbing heartbeat. Something that buzzes and sings in the ears. Oki’s baritone sax is transformative, taking on the shape of other instruments to flesh out the story of the piece. This speaks of slow sunrises and even more mysterious sunsets. This is the type of jazz that excites me and teleports listeners to a time when the music was raw, ungentrified and full of passion and chaos.