Youn Sun-nah

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2006, 12:00am

Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre

May 8, 8pm

It may seem strange that a South Korean jazz singer is one of the star attractions of Le French May, but the choice reflects Paris' status as the international capital of world music and one of the world's greatest jazz cities.

Youn Sun-nah and her quintet - or 5tet as they're called - are a hot ticket at Parisian jazz clubs such as Le Duc des Lombards and play to packed houses.

Born and raised in South Korea before undertaking vocal studies in Paris, Youn is nothing if not cosmopolitan. She sings in French, English, Korean and Hebrew. After starting out with standards, she now mainly performs originals composed by herself or members of her band.

Paris has put its stamp on her. There are elements of French chanson in her style and her presentation is overtly theatrical in the cabaret tradition. Her vocal style ranges from the dreamily melodic to the distinctly spiky - with lyrics to match.

Youn's own words bear witness to a dark sense of humour, and she and the band have clearly found a groove that suits them on her latest album, So I Am. Their next album will be released by Blue Note, one of the most prestigious jazz labels and also the home of Norah Jones - although it's unlikely that Youn will enjoy the same level of commercial appeal.

Her music requires concentration and is rewarding for listeners prepared to make the effort. She uses her voice like an instrument, but always in the service of the song. This is jazz in the European tradition and eschews flashy displays of virtuosity.

David Neerman plays the vibraphone with quiet, good taste in a style that recalls Milt Jackson with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Benjamin Moussay's piano work is sparse and well considered, leaving plenty of space for Yoni Zelnik's expressive upright bass work. David Georgelet's drumming is used more to add colour than to lay down a beat.

Their Asian tour brings the music back home, finishing in Seoul after concerts in Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong.

345 Queen's Rd, Central, $150-$280 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2734 9009