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Artist profile: Winterplay
by | July 26, 2009 | 51 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. (Past profiles: folk-indie artist Jang Kiha and the Faces, rock singer-songwriter Yi Sung-yol, and indietronica artist Oldfish.)

Now it’s Korea’s foremost and possibly only mainstream jazz group Winterplay, which is out with a new album and poised to enjoy even greater success than it did with its debut in 2008.

SONG OF THE DAY

Winterplay – “Billie Jean.” I love covers when they’re done well and offer an artist’s own spin on the original song. I’m sure we all know where this one comes from, right? (If someone doesn’t, me and my creaky old bones will be very, very sad.) [ Download ]

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THE ORIGIN OF WINTERPLAY

Winterplay isn’t a conventional jazz band, though it’s hardly a typical pop group, either. Group leader and trumpeter Lee Joo-han explains that he, the contrabassist, and the guitarist are all trained as jazz performers, but they took a more pop-inflected approach as Winterplay. Lee explains, “We formed the band with the attitude of jazz musicians making a pop album.”

Winterplay aren’t seen regularly on television like other pop and rock acts. In fact, their rise in the public consciousness came mostly through a commercial that featured one of their songs.

Lee Joo-han says, “Normally, jazz musicians have some time off in the winter, so we formed a band with the idea of only acting as a project group that performed in the winter. That’s why we took on the name ‘Winterplay.'”

They got together and began making music without a music label, but they were able to complete the recording and mixing on their album with the aid of their now-label (Fluxus) president (who’s also Lee Joo-han’s friend). Upon hearing their music, he invited them to sign with him immediately to form not a project group but an official band.

They released their first album in January 2008, which contained a song that drew a request by the Samsung Hauzen appliance brand to be used in a CF starring Witch Amusement actress Han Ga-in (CF and song here). Winterplay re-recorded their album’s “Happy Bubble” for use in the commercial, and the song reached #1 on the domestic jazz chart.

Now they’ve released a special album, “Hot Summerplay,” which just about doubles their playlist. Included are some new tunes featuring their now-recognizable mix of pop, jazz, blues, and bossa nova. Their first single from the album is the song “Gypsy Girl” (which was featured in the preview video for the film Ogamdo).

 
Winterplay – “Gypsy Girl” [ Download ]

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THE MEMBERS

Lee Joo-han. The trumpeter (43) and group leader made his pro music debut back in 1995 with his solo album “직관” (Intuition). In 1996-97, he was the band leader in MBC’s “좋은밤입니다” (It’s a Good Night), and also put out albums in 2002 and 2009.

Moon Hye-won. Vocalist Hye-won (24) graduated from Dankook University after studying music. She debuted in 2007 as a featured vocalist on the Sonagi Project album “Cinema in Jazz.”

Choi Woo-joon. The guitarist (32) also played with the Woong San Band (Woong San is another jazz artist, a solo singer whose real name is Kim Eun-young). Choi’s musical debut came in his solo 2007 album “Saza’s Groove.”

So Eun-kyu. The contrabassist (35) made his official musical debut with Winterplay’s 2008 debut album “Choco Snow Ball.” He was a former performer in the Gwangju Biennale.

Lee Joo-han says of the relative unfamiliarity of jazz to Koreans, “Jazz isn’t difficult, it’s just that people aren’t familiar with it. In Europe, the States, or Japan, jazz bands are around, but we have to go to an applied music department at a university to learn jazz here, which shows the difference in how Koreans approach it.”

Guitarist Choi Woo-joon: “The more we keep performing, it feels like we’re changing our style as if to say, ‘So what if it’s not jazz?’ With our old jazz roots, even if we perform intending to make pop music our old habits remain, which I think is fun for the performers and fresh for the listeners.”

 

Winterplay – “너의 기억만으로” (Just through your memory/Remembering you) [ Download ]

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Winterplay – “Quando Quando Quando” (repost) [ Download ]

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HALLYU POTENTIAL?

Winterplay’s potential has been recognized, it seems, more quickly overseas than at home. Universal Japan’s Classics & Jazz director Hiroshi Aono called Winterplay “this year’s strongest new artist”

But Winterplay’s goal isn’t on necessarily to become world-famous: “You say we’re part of Hallyu? We’re just people who make music.”

In 2009, Winterplay signed with Universal Japan for sales in Japan; their full-length album goes on sale beginning July 22, and the band will hold showcase events in Tokyo and Osaka. In its first week, their first single, “Songs of Colored Love,” hit #1 on Japan’s mobile ringtone chart.

This came about unintentionally. Lee Joo-han had sent their recording to a recording company in England, but it was sent over to the Japanese side. The Japanese representative liked it, and signed them with a Japanese label.

When asked about the term “Jazz Hallyu,” contrabassist So Eun-kyu waves his hand and says, “We haven’t even begun yet. We’re just showing our music to different audiences; we’re not going to conquer a new market.” Music isn’t specific to a nation, he feels, and the expression on his face shows that he is not a fan of the Korean habit of attaching the label “Hallyu” to any actor or musician who travels overseas.

The reporter asks, “Do you want to play in other places?” Lee Joo-han answers, “I’d like to go to Russia, Czech Republic, and France, but it’s just that the opportunity to go to Japan came first.”

 
Winterplay – “Who Are You” (a repost) from the Who Are You drama OST. [ Download ]

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Winterplay – “Who Are You?” (bossa nova version) (repost). I like both versions of this song, but if I had to choose, it would be this loungier, jazzier one. [ Download ]

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Via Mk.co.kr, Herald Biz, Herald Biz

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51 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. shopeeah

    i love themmmm~

  2. Lucille

    I usually don’t download the song posted. However, I loved every single song posted and dowloaded all of them. Thank you. I have to admit I am very picky about my music and I don’t listen to many artist. So, I will look into buying this album. Thank you again and please continue to introduce us to new groups.

  3. Selly

    Thanks for this. I really love this

  4. lei

    love that billie jean cover.

  5. Biscuit

    I remember listening to one of their songs, but I didn’t know where to learn more about them. Thanks for the article ^^

  6. Dramaniac

    I have always loved the music you post, but this one hits the spot. I call this great lounge music. Now, I need to find out where I can download this.

  7. Mel

    Nice Music ^_^

  8. langdon813

    I loved the song “Who Are You” and looked it up here on Dramabeans right after I started watching the drama. I’m not really a jazz enthusiast but I really fell for this song and the drama too!

    Thanks for the article and new songs to check out!

  9. kimchii

    I love Winterplay (: Actually it was because of you that I came to know them.. I awhile back you posted Quando, Quando, Quando and I just loved the way they covered it. I have one of their albums and I play it all the time.

    Thanks for the article (:

  10. 10 Nokcha

    My first introduction to Winterplay was when watching Yoon Do Hyun’s Loveletter. They have a very cool sound. I couldn’t wait for their summer release. It’s great to read about them and get some info. Thanks!

  11. 11 Nonbirira

    THANK YOU! (Scuttles off to YesAsia. Shopping cart here I come!)

  12. 12 djbeans

    Yay!! I really really like this band and really glad that they’re getting recognized more! Hopefully they’ll start having their music on itunes and/or amazon soon.

  13. 13 etsy

    they are SO good. thanks so much for posting about them

  14. 14 clar4allseasons

    super love it! i’d say one can fall in love with these songs in the background

  15. 15 linz

    ohh i really like this! thanks for sharing

  16. 16 Me

    They had Youtube channel too. Check out.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/Winterplaybox

    Billie Jean perf.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2CCrQl7BSM

  17. 17 birdscout

    Ooooh! I like Winterplay’s version of Billie Jean better than the original, and the first version of Who Are You is just lovely…makes me fall in love with Yoon Kye Sang all over again (which is a good thing because I agree with Javabeans, I think I hate his character in Triple. But I’ve only watched up to episode 11, so I’m hoping his character will somehow become relatable by the end of the drama.)

    Thanks for this fantastic musical treat!

  18. 18 Keiki55

    Love the music, they absolutely sound awesome.

  19. 19 Jose

    Awesome band

    And I have to say I freaking love the Song Who Are You. I know this is so cliche to say, but the song fits me and my ex girlfriend so well.

  20. 20 muzikizlife

    thanx for the awesome recommendations! I’m alwayz up for that kinda chill music that I can lay down and listen to =)

  21. 21 jangneri

    you don’t know how happy I am to see this post. I haven’t found any translated interviews of the group so I’m really happy with this. I love Winterplay and their Billie Jean cover was so awesome. <3 I also watched the Take One episode where Fluxus artists gathered around Christmas and the duet with Alex was really lovely.

  22. 22 okenakab

    I generally lurk around your blog, but I just had to comment and say you’ve made an absolute fan out of me! Their style is amazingly refreshing, and I hope they do get the success they deserve, both in Korea and abroad. Thank you!

  23. 23 trihok

    Love love the 2 diff versions of “Who R U”. Get to know them after watching the drama.

    Thanks for the musics :)

  24. 24 jes

    lovelovelove <3
    i love these non-mainstream recommendations :)
    thanksthanksthanks :) what do you think about clazziquai's new song?

  25. 25 Nurgul

    I like the vocalist’s voice. She has very pleasant voice and good English, and the band is so professional. Thank you!

  26. 26 JJ

    Thanks much! You should do more of these artist profiles, I love it–beautiful music!

  27. 27 kaynn

    Thank you for introducing me to this band! I’ve recently noticed there’s so much more to discover in Korean music than just the usual K-pop bands – not that I don’t like them – it’s just so refreshing with some original music without clear genres, with vocalists who sing GOOD English! :D (Have they studied abroad?)

  28. 28 LaFr4ise

    I love them soo much.. Can’t get enough of their Choco Snowballs album.. and Happy Bubble is my current ringtone ^^

    I think the one that can beat them fairly is brown eyed soul.. too bad they’re disbanded.. not so much of clazziquai because for me the songs has different feeling.

  29. 29 travp16

    I really like their stuff.

  30. 30 bbm

    the first vers of Who Are You is so short, is it like that or the song is not complete?? loving both version… and their rendition of Billie Jean is Awesome…

  31. 31 Ally

    Amazing!

  32. 32 cosmopolite

    The Billie Jean cover is awesome. :)

  33. 33 Maddy

    All I can say is that i adore them wholeheartedly.

  34. 34 scott

    thank you, these are very nice!

  35. 35 LinZainal

    Saw them on Huiyeol’s Sketchbook a while ago. They are really good!

  36. 36 maya

    I fall in love with them~especially Hye-Won’s vocal xD

  37. 37 Juhan Lee

    Thanks Javabeans! Great wrap up of winterplay so far! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Currently, we are working on our 2nd album due out Feb, 2010.
    We hope you enjoy it. There will be different versions of it released in Japan, Korea and England. England will be the 1st album. Once aagain, thanks!
    And, on behalf of Winterplay ~ Happy Holidays to Come! Or you can always come and watch our concert on Dec 31!

    Peace,

    Juhan

  38. 38 Harlene

    I wish you guys, Winterplay, can come to Philippines. Or maybe I really should visit Seoul. :D

  39. 39 LaFraise

    Come to LA and do a concert here ^^ .. (I wish)
    I love winterplay since I first heard their Happy Bubble song in the Han Ga In’s washing machine ads. Too bad it’s too hard to find their album here in LA. I had to order it from overseas.

  40. 40 ella

    Harlene, Winterplay is coming to the Philippines for the Philippine-Korea Friendship event. I don’t know the details yet, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to have a concert with other Korean artists on Nov 27th. :)

  41. 41 sarahbelle

    Heh, I remember seeing this performed by them on Youtube a while back, and ever since then I always think of this version when I sing this at the noraebang.

    I had no idea it was the same folks from the Who Are You? OST, though. That is awesome that Juhan commented. Just for that, I’m gonna listen to their other songs. :)

  42. 42 jae

    @Harlene

    Winterplay’s coming to Philippines on th 27th, together with SHINee, Mighty Mouth, and VJ Isak. ^^

  43. 43 Bostaf

    Thank your for this entry and for the songs ^^
    I’ve just discovered Winterplay (I was looking for a website about them when I found yours) and I don’t really like their music style but the singer’s voice is…wooa x)
    So thank you for this entry ^^

    (Sorry for the mistakes I could have made, I don’t speak english fluently ^^;)

  44. 44 Asif Pishori

    Brilliant cover of Billie Jean, would you be interested in performing at Miri Jazz Festival or Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival next year??? Asif Pishori-AP Jazz Trio.

  45. 45 vini

    they are awesome..

  46. 46 velle

    i’m a new fan, just saw a video of them today in one of my facebook friends’s post, they’re amazing.

  47. 47 karz

    I’m officially a new fan! I hope they will come to Java jazz next year ^^

  48. 48 pisthaz

    ooohhh, este grupo es increiblee! m enkntaron desde q vi el dorama de ¿WHO ARE YOU? y me puse a buscara la cancion y cual va siendo mi sorpresa q me encuentro con la rola d Biilie Jean y “Gypsy Girl y sus verciones en Bossa Nova y m gustaron muxo, gracias x el reportaje!

  49. 49 Deb

    Can’t agree more with Eun-kyu and Winterplay. I’ve been a fan of them since 2 years ago. Their music are magical and Hye-won’s voice is beautiful :)

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