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Saxophonist and Composer Sunhyun Yoo: A Journey of Musical Innovation and Cultural Fusion


Born in Seoul, Korea, and now making waves in the vibrant music scene of Brooklyn, New York, Sunhyun Yoo is a distinguished saxophonist and composer with a passion that traces back to his roots in the church choir and early drumming days. Sunhyun Yoo stands at the crossroads of tradition and innovation, weaving together the rich tapestry of his Korean heritage with the eclectic influences of American jazz.  Renowned as a professional alto saxophonist, his music resonates with a soulful and dark sound, a testament to the profound impact of jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Kenny Garrett on his artistic evolution.


Sun's musical journey began at the age of 9 when the enchanting tones of a solo clarinet captured his imagination. Gifted with his own clarinet shortly after, Sun embarked on a classical music training that laid the foundation for his future in the world of music. During his formative years, he became a vital part of the middle school orchestra, showcasing his talent as a soloist with renditions of timeless compositions by Mozart, Edgar, and Rossini.

Inspired by his uncle, the vibraphonist Jinwoo Paek, Sun discovered jazz and felt a magnetic pull toward the saxophone. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity and a commitment to his craft, Sun initiated his formal studies in jazz at Daegu Arts University in 2007, marking the beginning of his dedicated pursuit of excellence.


Post-military service in the Third ROK Army Band, Sunhyun Yoo rapidly garnered attention and recognition in the Korean jazz scene. His compositions, such as "Think of Butterfly Effect" and "Amaranth," featured on Korean saxophonist Yongmun Lee's album "Clouds," demonstrate not only his technical proficiency but also his depth of conviction and integrity in the realm of composition.


In 2013, a transformative encounter with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner ignited a musical journey that would shape the trajectory of Sunhyun Yoo's career. This pivotal experience served as the catalyst for his relocation to the heartbeat of the global music scene—New York City—in January 2015. Armed with a half scholarship from The New School, Sun delved into the city's vibrant jazz landscape, honing his craft and expanding his artistic horizons. His dedication and passion culminated in his graduation in 2017, marking a significant milestone in his pursuit of excellence. Undeterred by challenges, Sun continued his educational odyssey, earning a master's degree in jazz studies from New York University in 2019, further solidifying his place among the city's musical elite.  


Sunhyun Yoo's artistic journey reached new heights with the release of his debut album, "Meanings," in 2019, where he showcased his prowess as a bandleader. In 2020, he continued to make an impact with the release of "LOVER" alongside the co-leading band Mongaif, further establishing his diverse musical identity.

Distinguished by his dynamic and versatile approach, Sun is currently a vital member of the NYJW Saxophone Quartet, under the direction of the renowned Marc Mommaas. Additionally, he contributes his talents to the Grammy-winning Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, directed by the acclaimed Arturo O’Farrill, showcasing his ability to seamlessly navigate different genres and musical landscapes.


As Sunhyun Yoo continues to captivate audiences with his emotive performances and innovative compositions, he remains committed to pushing the boundaries of his artistry. With an unwavering dedication to his craft, Sun stands poised on the cusp of even greater musical achievements, promising an exciting future filled with groundbreaking contributions to the world of jazz and beyond. His artistic exploration knows no bounds. His sonic journey takes a captivating turn with his latest endeavor, the electronic project band 'PLAiDE.' Through this innovative venture, Sun aims to immerse audiences in a realm of dreamy and groovy sounds, pushing the boundaries of traditional musical experiences. Currently, Sun is not only performing but also touring with 'PLAiDE,' promising audiences an electrifying and immersive sonic adventure.


Sunhyun Yoo's artistic evolution reflects a fusion of tradition and experimentation, a testament to his commitment to pushing the boundaries of his craft. As he continues to navigate the diverse landscapes of jazz and electronic music, Sun remains a dynamic force, captivating audiences with his emotive performances and pushing the sonic envelope. With each note and composition, he invites listeners into a world where tradition meets innovation, and the possibilities of sound are limitless.

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