Photo Credit: Brigitte Bouillot
Anyone who can play an instrument amazes me as I cannot comprehend how the human mind and body can do those magical things and create wonderful sounds, but there is something next-level about those who deliver on the saxophone. That is where my chat with Oan Kim started, but as we unraveled the layers we got cinematic, talked about family, got into his February 2022 release ‘Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz,’ and got a bit romantic in this back and forth exchange. .
Kendra: I was excited to connect with you because you play what I believe is a top-tier instrument, the saxophone. When it came time to be in a band, that’s what I wanted – we couldn’t afford it. I got the flute and quit two weeks later. For me, it was about emulating Lisa Simpson, but what about you? What drew you to this instrument?
Oan Kim: There’s this french movie that I watched as a teenager called ‘Round Midnight’ starring Dexter Gordon more or less as himself. He was so cool and sounded so laid back, I instantly wanted to become an old saxophone player.
Kendra: With jazz not being the most mainstream of genres – what are some songs you feel could be a starting point for those who want to get into it but don’t know where to start? And don’t forget to drop some of yours!
Oan Kim: My first introduction to jazz was through a couple of CDs my cousin gave me for Christmas: Dave Brubeck’s ‘Time Out’ and ‘Louis and the Good Book’ by Louis Armstrong. That was a perfect introduction. The soundtrack for ‘Ascenceur pour l’échafaud’ by Miles Davis is 60’s jazz at its most cinematic. If you like romantic singers Chet Baker is a good entry point as well, let’s say “I fall in love too easily.” Keith Jarrett’s Köln concert is a good way to get into jazz if you’re coming from classical music. “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Dizzy Gillespie with Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins will put a smile on your face, it’s as playful as jazz can get. You can also try “Wong Kar Why” from my album that blends an Elvis ballad with some Ben Webster suave.
Kendra: You spent time in other bands, making music as part of Film Noir and Chinese Army. How do you feel your creative process working on ‘Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz’ differed from your days in those bands?
Oan Kim: When you collaborate with other people like in a band you more or less consciously make up rules as you start to establish some common ground. When you work alone you don’t have to compose with other people’s tastes and that gives you more freedom. It makes the process faster, it also allowed me to try many different things without sometimes knowing where I was going,
Kendra: Speaking of Film Noir, and you being a filmmaker – the video for “Mambo” and the overall sound is all very cinematic. With that, if you could place “Mambo” in a scene from a movie you hold dear, which would it be and why?
Oan Kim: Probably a Jim Jarmusch movie. Maybe ‘Down by Law,’ one of the first scenes at night, over the shady characters played by Tom Waits and John Lurie. It would be in good company.
Kendra: You were behind both that video and “Wong Kar Why?” That one featured shots of your wife over a handful of years. In hindsight, do you feel like this video was a perfect gift your son could look back on years down the road?
Oan Kim: I didn’t think of it but probably, yeah. He’ll probably say, “Mom looks so young!” He’ll understand how he came to be.
Kendra: A little side note, with it being February I’m asking everyone if they could please share what they believe is the best love song – and give us a quick reason as to why they believe it’s #1…
Oan Kim: It’s not exactly a love song but I’ll say “L’eau à la bouche” by Serge Gainsbourg. It captures perfectly the feeling of anticipation you feel before a date.
Kendr: Okay, so with ‘Oan Kim & The Dirty Jazz’ out this month, what else can fans both new and old be on the lookout from you in the coming months?
Oan Kim: Look out for new music videos made by yours truly, and festival dates over the summer. I also directed a feature length documentary called ‘the man who paints water drops’ about my father, that should be available in theaters or on some streaming service somewhere, sometime.