A Korean and American Jazz Excursion: Five Directions

Six boundary-breaking musicians from Korea and the United States join forces for this cross-cultural jazz collaboration evoking the origins of the universe, the cosmic balance of yin and yang, and the five elements of creation. Three leading lights of the New York improv scene–Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, saxophone, and shakuhachi), Erik Friedlander (cello), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)–are joined by three Korean musicians–Yoon Jeong Heo (geomungo/zither), Kwon Soon Kang (vocal), and Young Chi Min (daegum/flute and janggo/drum) –for this unique experiment that blends free jazz and traditional Korean music.

This concert took place in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on December 9, 2008.


The Tori Ensemble
Yoon Jeong Heo, geomungo (zither)
Ned Rothenberg, clarinet, saxophone, shakuhachi
Erik Friedlander, cello
Satoshi Takeishi, percussion
Kwon Soon Kang, vocal and gong
Young Chi Min, daegum (flute), janggo (drum)

I. The North as Black
II. The East as Blue
III. The West as White
IV. The South as Red
V. The Center as Yellow

This performance was a joint presentation of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and Asia Society Washington and was made possible, in part, through support from the Korea Foundation's Washington, D.C., office. Performances by the Tori Ensemble in New York and Washington were made possible with generous support from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of South Korea.


Yoon Jeong Heo, geomungo [komungo] performer and composer, works to cut across genres and expand the possibilities of Korean music by fusing traditional music, impromptu music, and contemporary music. She graduated from the National High School of Korean Traditional Music and received her B.A. and M.A. from Seoul National University. She studied geomungo sanjo with the Living National Treasure Han Gap Duk, earning the master title of yisuja. Heo served as the deputy concertmaster of the Seoul Metropolitan Korean Music Orchestra from 1990 to 1994. Her collaborations include appearances with German artist Stephan Micus and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. With the KBS Korean Traditional Music Orchestra, she toured Germany, England, France, the United States, China, Japan, and Poland. Heo was awarded a Ministry of Culture prize in 1986 in the field of Korean traditional music as well as a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council, which is supporting her 2007–2008 residency in New York. She is a member of the Sangsang Ensemble, serves as art director of Bukchon Changwoo Theater, leads the project group “go-MOON-go,” and lectures at Jungang and Yongin universities.

Composer/performer Ned Rothenberg has performed internationally for twenty-eight years, appearing widely in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. He plays clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, and shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute, which he studied with Katsuya Yokoyama and Goro Yamaguchi. Rothenberg leads the trio Sync, featuring Jerome Harris on guitars and Samir Chatterjee on tabla. Recent recordings include Sync's Harbinger, Intervals, a double-CD of solo work; Live at Roulette with Evan Parker; and Are You Be by R.U.B. (Rothenberg/Kazuhisa Uchihashi/Samm Bennett) on Rothenberg's Animul label. Chamber music releases include Inner Diaspora and Ghost Stories (on the Tzadik label) and Power Lines (on New World), along with The Fell Clutch (on Animul). Other collaborators have included Paul Dresher, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Masahiko Sato, Kang Tae Hwan, and Sainkho Namchylak. Manfred Pabst, music critic for Neue Züricher Zeitung, writes that “other kinds of music might entertain you, cheer you up, or pump the blood, but his clarifies the mind and throws your soul wide open.”

Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer and an improviser, a classical musician and a jazz artist. A longtime veteran of New York's downtown scene, he has backed up John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, and Courtney Love and recorded eight CDs as a group leader. Whether performing solo or with one of his bands, Friedlander furthers his vision of what the cello can be pushed to do while maintaining a firm grasp on both improvisational and classical traditions. His father, photographer Lee Friedlander, whose work included cover photos for Atlantic Records in the 1960s, passed his passion for R&B and jazz to his son. Erik Friedlander's earliest memories are of a household filled with the sounds of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. He's been playing the cello since age eight. If you have a concept of what that instrument can do, he says, he “will reshape it.” Pitchfork described Friedlander as “Rostropovich one second and Rottweiler the next.”

A native of Mito, Japan, Satoshi Takeishi is a drummer, percussionist, and arranger. He studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he developed an interest in the music of South America. He spent four years in Colombia, where he worked on the project Macumbia—combining traditional, classical, and jazz music—with composer/arranger Francisco Zumaque. Takeishi performed with this group and the Bogota Symphony Orchestra in series of concerts honoring the Colombian composer Lucho Bermudes. In 1986, Takeishi returned to Miami, and produced the CD Morning Ride for jazz flutist Nestor Torres on Polygram Records. He has also studied rhythms and melodies of Middle Eastern music with Armenian-American oud (Arab lute) artist Joe Zeytoonian. Since moving to New York in 1991, Takeishi has performed and recorded with Ray Barretto, Carlos “Patato” Valdes, and Marc Johnson, among others.

Kwon Soon Kang is a leading vocalist in both Korean traditional court music (jeongga) and contemporary music. She has performed with the National Orchestra, KBS Traditional Orchestra, Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Orchestra, Kim Duksoo Samulnori Group, and Nan Kye Traditional Ensemble. She has worked under such art directors as Ong Keng Sen, Jinhi Kim and Chen Shi-Zeng. Kang has participated in the Melbourne Arts Festival, the fiftieth Anniversary of Korea's Liberation, Young Musicians Festival, and the Korea Festival. She also has performed under the auspices of the International Cultural Exchange Foundation of Korea. Kang released the first CD of Korean traditional court music (jeongga), Sounds of Heaven, in 2004. She recorded with Samulnori group and received awards at such festivals as the Dong-A Competition and the Seoul Traditional Music Festival sponsored by Korean Broadcasting System (KBS).

Young Chi Min, janggo (hour-glass drum), has performed in Korea and Japan as part of the Korean percussion band Puri and as the music director of Reimei, a traditional Korean art group in based in Japan. He has performed with a wide range of bands and musicians, including Chong Myoung-Hun, Chong Myoung-Wha, Shin Hea-Chul, Ssai, Num Goong-Yon, Panick, DA PUMP, Shinjuku-Ryouzanpaku, Shanshan Typhoon, Kunihiko Ryo, Eitetsu Hayashi, and Okura Shonosuke. Yong Chi Min left Puri after their Japanese tour but now makes Japan the headquarters for his performances and musical activities. He currently directs the group San-Ta (meaning “scattering and hitting”), devoted to creating new interpretations of traditional Korean music.

Asia Society in Washington, D.C.

Asia Society in Washington, D.C., provides a forum in the nation's capital where diplomats, members of Congress, government officials, journalists, scholars, artists, business executives, and other interested individuals can exchange views on a wide variety of subjects concerning Asia. From Iran to Japan, from Central Asia to Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, the society's programs look at contemporary issues and trends in the region and the cultural context for growth and change. Programs are designed to allow interaction among participants and questions from the audience. Visit www.asiasociety.org.

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