The 6th Penang Island Jazz Festival: December 3-6, 2009
Other notable presentations included the first Penang Island Jazz Festival Jazz Forum and "Stolen Moments," a fascinating glimpse into the jazz photography of renowned international jazz photographer William Ellis.
The Jazz Forum was titled "Jazz and the Creative Economy" and the panelists were Anthanas Gustys: director of Lithuania's famous Vilnius Jazz Festival; Jae Jin In (JJ): director of the Jarasum Jazz Festival in Korea; Peter Lee: director of the Hong Kong Jazz Festival; Henk Van Leeuwen: jazz promoter; Natasha E. Gerold: jazz promoter and head of Buzz Records.
The panelists gave some insight into the promotion of jazz as a social-cultural development tool and its potential in the development of the 'creative economy,' bringing benefits to the local community in both monetary and non-monetary ways.
The audience in attendance were also given a certain amount of insight into the workings of a jazz festival, warts and all. It was sobering to hear the Jarasum director JJ recount how he was forced to sell his house after three editions of the festival to pay off debts incurred. Happily, the festival now draws over 150,000 people annually and is in a financially healthy state.
Anthanus Gustys talked of the necessity to inject young blood into the festivals and all agreed that youth/talent competitions play an important role in fostering the jazz musicians of tomorrow. Other strong themes which developed during the discussion were the role of jazz as a bridge between cultures, and the need for support from the community at large.
Evident among all the panelists was a deep love of jazz and recognition of the benefits of pursing an improvisational form of music as a means to help people develop the habit of thinking outside the box.
Day two on the main stage kicked off with the lively blues of the Charlie Jung Band from South Korea. Jung spent years playing in America and is well versed in the idiom, as were his band mates. Jung is an impressive guitarist and his style lies somewhere between Eric Clapton and Robert Cray, though on the opening number the influence of BB King was evident.
Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" was given the up-tempo Clapton treatment though with a funky edge and featured a fine solo from Sung Gimoon on keyboards, who impressed throughout on piano. Vocalist Park Jae Hong's sometimes less than clear enunciation was compensated by a strong, soulful voice and the energy of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. A fine, high-energy performance won the band a deserved encore.
Technical brilliance and passion in equal measure characterized the performance of veteran Brazilian guitarists Paulo Bellinati and Christina Azuma. After twenty years performing together the musical empathy between the two is pronounced.
Drawing from the deep well of traditional Brazilian styles and with a classical/baroque accent, the two gave a masterly performance. On the opener, Bellinat's 1935 steel string, serenade guitar and Azuma's nylon strings executed complex runs of such syncopation that the two guitars sounded as one. Sitting side by side, the two looked like odd mirror images of each other.
Most of the compositions were penned by Bellinati, save for a delicate interpretation Of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Amparo" from his classic album Stoneflower(CTI, 1970). Two back-to-back waltzes with a beautiful samba inflection paid tribute to Garoto, an important figure at beginning of the bossa nova movement in the '40s and 50's. It was a delight to watch the two animatedly tapping the bodies of their guitars and creating rhythm simply by rubbing the palms of their hands together.
A power cut left the duo in darkness for several minutes but they didn't miss a beat. One suspects that they could play such harmonically complex stuff blindfolded. The stirring "Lun Duo," based on the Afro-Brazilian style Lundu in which lie the origins of all Brazilian rhythms put the seal on a memorable performance and the duo left the stage to warm applause.
Organamix was up next. Organist Jeremy Monteiro, guitarist Andrew Lim and drummer Hong Chanutr Techatana-nan gave a groovy, blues-edged performance inspired by the great Hammond players like Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff and Richard "Groove" Holmes. However, there is a modern-sounding approach to their music more in line with the organ trio of Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist Ximo Tebar and drummerIdris Muhammad.
The Andrew Lim composition "The Deadline" showed that this Singaporean guitarist is no mean composer either. A tasteful, unflashy solo from Lim was returned with interest by Monteiro. "Soliloquay" had a skipping, almost Brazilian flavor and Monteiro's gothic-horror coda was a reminder of how demonic-sounding the organ can be.