Chloe Kim: ‘Jazz and improvising are just another way of living life’

Drummer Chloe Kim is one of the rising stars of the Sydney jazz and improvised music scene. Selected by Zoe Hauptmann, Artistic Director for Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) to be part of the Sonic Futures: Jazz Stars of Tomorrow program, the Korean drummer will perform with pianist Adrian Lim-Klumpesand saxophonist Jim Denley. In accordance to the Sonic Futures concept, Kim chose Lim-Klumpes and Denley to mentor her and perform with her in a concert sponsored by APRA/AMCOS. Here, the drummer and the pianist talk about their collaboration.


Chloe, what attracted you to jazz?

Chloe Kim: At first, my favourite part of jazz was its varieties in the groove – Swing, Latin, Afro-Cuban groove, etc. They were all so exciting to learn and I loved playing these, especially with friends in a lot of different band settings.

While getting involved in bands, I realised that playing jazz and improvising are just another way of living life, because it requires great cooperation between musicians such as listening, understanding, accepting different ideas, suggesting individuals ideas and sorting out problems together. So, while finding this as another fascinating aspect in jazz and improvisation, I have received inspiration and motivation from many great mentors and hardworking friends in Australia.

My journey in jazz and improvised music has been all working out so well ever since I moved toAustralia.As a foreigner in the country and an international student, I felt very fortunate and thankful to be welcomed by the safe, family-like environment of the Australian jazz scene. So many generous musicians and friends shared their knowledge without hesitation and encouraged me to explore my own sound and ideas. Even when my work doesn’t turn out so well, there has been no judgment, but continuous trust and support. Such powerful and positive community attitudes played a crucial role in deciding my hope to continue practicing and working hard as an individual and becoming a supportive and humble member of the Australian music community.

Do you have a musical family that has influenced your upbringing towards performing/playing?

CK: My family all love music and play various instruments, so I grew up listening to and playing classical and gospel music on piano and violin. I was involved in a lot of school and community orchestras, church bands and I also sang in choirs. Ever since I picked up the drums at the age of 10, I also played in rock and jazz bands. My family and I went to concerts, musicals and gigs all the time ever since I was little. I cannot remember every single of them because there are so many, but I believe this definitely supported my growth in sense of music.

What records are you currently listening to?

CK: I have been listening to my teacher, Dr Simon Barker‘s solo albums. From old to new, every single one of them is beautifully played and made. I have currently been listening to one of his newest releases, Urgency! (both volume 1 and 2) a lot. I have been fortunate to learn few of his specific rhythmic and sticking languages over the past three years, so when things I can understand appear in his music, I get really excited and amazed by the way Simon can turn his ideas and practice materials into such an incredible and creative music.

Also, ever since Simon recommend Bob Marley’s Legend, I have been listening to it a lot, pretty much every morning during my practice warm-up sessions. I sing along the rhythm articulations, bounce and gather my sticks, or sometimes jump up and down in the middle of the practice room, in order to embody the straight 8thfeels.

Adrian, what records were you listening to ten years ago, and what are you listening to now?

Adrian Lim-Klumpes:I’ve always listened to a diverse range of music. It’s more about what kind of listening I’m doing – enjoyment, research, reviewing my own work. Sometimes listening to music in the realm of a project I’m working on is really important.

Chloe, what drew you towards Adrian and Jim, and wanted them to mentor you and collaborate with you for this performance?

CK:I met and worked with Adrian for the first time through this project, but I have been a fan of his solo projects – his recent release, Yield (Preludes and Fugues for piano) is probably one of my favorite solo piano albums ever, I remember listening to the whole album every day for a while – as well as his band Tangents for a long time. From listening to his music, I could imagine that his palette of musical colors and sonic tools are deep and wide. Through the rehearsals, I had a little experience of his palette and they were beautiful! He is also a very passionate and powerful mentor who encourages bringing more out from my playing.

I first heard Jim playing in probably one of the most wholesome improvising ensembles in Sydney, the Splinter Orchestra. Ever since I became a huge fan not only of how Jim plays his instrument, but also of who he is. We got to have nice conversations throughout this project and everything Jim tells me is so wise and helpful advice coming from a long experience of playing music in such a sincere, humble attitude. I really appreciate it. His incredible energy during playing always braces my nerves and helps me to concentrate from the very beginning till the end of music making process.

Adrian, what are you looking forward to getting out of the Sonic Futures program?

AL-K:Chloe is an exciting drummer and her calm and insightful work ethic in rehearsal is conducive to deep and interesting music!

Chloe, what would you tell yourself if you could go back to first year?

CK:At the beginning of my first year, I felt sad and depressed. Because it seemed like all my friends at uni had played their instruments for so much longer than I have, had already mastered the techniques, were musically more talented and gifted and even have more, better gears than what I had. But then, I also realised I should respect all that time they spent on working hard to be great musicians, but that, for me, being at the Sydney Con is only the first baby step of working hard and patiently. So I decided to give myself at least a year or two to really just practice all day every day. Even when I didn’t know what or how to practice, I would go into the practice room first every morning and leave the last every night. During those times, I figured out my strength and weakness as a player. This would have not been possible without immense support and trust from my mentors, friends, and family. After a while, I figured out an important secret of being an exciting, confident musician: Practice. So if I could go back to first year, I would encourage myself to practice, more and harder than ever.

What was the best advice someone ever gave you, Adrian?

AL-K:I was once advised that jazz is dead. Is it? Depending on where one might stand on this issue, this advice made me more determined to go deeper with my own improvising and composing, regardless of labels.

What advice do you have for young studying jazz musicians?

AL-K:Don’t wait to be ‘ready’ before you start pursuing your own performance opportunities or recordings. Always believe in your own version of the music you want to make. Follow your ideas with passion and commitment, and do a mountain of practise.

A question from Jim Denley for Chloe Kim: how did Korean traditional music influenced your music?

CK:One of the main components I learn through Korean (my home country’s) traditional music and rhythm is the body motion that the traditional percussionists use, called Hohup. Hohup in Korean, literally means inhale and exhale, but when it comes to the music setting, it also means embodied motion where percussionists try to create continuous flow, circular body movements with the minimum effort so that they can play for hours and hours, in unison with other players. Hohup motions still contain very heavy energy that comes from the core of one’s body, so for the past few years, my fundamental practice focuses were, by using the idea of Hohup, on getting good, relaxed, but still powerful physical movements that happen during drumming. As I got used to it and better at it, the amount of time I spend on actually computing the rhythm or tempo on my head got shorter. Rather, I can now rely on the natural body movements because the continuous momentum of the body movements takes care of the rhythm. This helped me to be less conscious and concerned at making mistakes or missing the time. It has also been helping me to not have any pain or stress on the body even when I have to play for a long time.

Chloe Kim, Adrian Lim-Klumpes and Jim Denley are performing on Saturday 9 February at the Seymour Centre