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Live Reviews

2010 Jarasum Jazz Festival, Gapeyong, South Korea

By Published: October 28, 2010
One of the advantages of having Stanley Jordan on the bill is that no matter what music follows it is going to sound radically different. There was little that was radical about Kyle Eastwood's quintet, which despite boasting a front line of trumpet and saxophone, veered towards a contemporary brand of jazz which hardly referenced the past at all. Eastwood is an accomplished bassist, and whether on upright or electric he impressed. The quintet opened with a funk workout with Graeme Blevins saxophone bouncing off the surrounding hills. An intimate piano-based piece, "Letters from Iwo Jima"—co-written with father, and film director Clint—saw Eastwood switch to electric bass, but teasingly, this lyrical number faded out a little too quickly.

On Dixieland jazz bassist Bob Haggart's "Big Noise From Winnetka" Eastwood switched between upright and electric and engaged in an absorbing duet with Martyn Kaine on drums. The pace of the tune picked up and Graeme Flowers then let rip on trumpet. Called back for an encore by the ever enthusiastic crowd, Eastwood introduced a new composition, "A Marciac" which brought solid closing statements from all.

Trombone player Nils Langdren led his Funk Unit through a set which had the crowd on its feet clapping and dancing long before the inevitable encore. "Funk All Night" set the tone for the set with the two saxophones of Jonas Wall and Magnus Langdren, the leader's trombone and keyboardist Sebastian Studnitzky —doubling on trumpet —blowing powerful unison riffs which brought to mind Tower of Power.

In a band which was utterly watertight, there was plenty of room for the individuals to shine, none more so than the leader, whose rasping 'bone solos provided some of the best displays of virtuosity of the three days. Magnus Langdren also made notable contributions on flute, exercising a tone which borrows much from Roland Kirk. In one memorable moment Magnus was joined by Wall on flute and the two played either side of Nils on a big number driven by the deeply funky unit of the wonderfully named bassist Magnum Coltrane, and drummer Robert Ikiz. The crowd roared its approval.

A couple of vocal numbers had the crowd singing along—something for which the Jarasum crowd needed little encouragement--- and by the end of the set the entire main stage audience was on its feet grooving to the funk.

The second day's headliner The Watts Project took to the stage and the leader, drummer Jeff Tain Watts greeted the crowd thus: "Now you're gonna' hear some jazz." It was no lie. As though to prove a point, the band kicked off at a furious lick, with first Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
on trumpet and then Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
on sax making opening statements of staggering power. With Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
on bass making up the quartet, this promised to be an incendiary performance and it lived up to its billing.

Jeff 'Tain Watts

These musicians have played with each other for something approaching 30 years, though as Watts informed the crowd this was only the second time performing this music, largely taken from Watts. (Dark Key Music, 2010) All the same, the interplay, whilst seemingly effortless, contained a spark which was not heard elsewhere to quite the same effect during the three days. Whether playing straight ahead or visiting the blues, the Watts Project swung hard. On "Katrina James" Hurst's funky bass and Watts crisp beat drove the composition as Marsalis and Blanchard carved out impeccable solos in turn. From his stool Watts directed affairs with steam rising off the top of his head; smoking indeed.

On "Dancin' 4 Chicken" Hurst began on arco before switching back to two hands and injecting a tremendous drive into the number which featured a blistering solo from Blanchard. The trumpeter won a 2010 Grammy for Best Solo on the CD recording of this track, but any Blanchard solo is an aural fest, and he was in wonderful tune at Jarasum; his playing on "Dancin' 4 Chicken" brought the crowd to its feet in applause. There was no sitting down as Watt's solo also had the crowd in raptures; little wonder really—few drummers pummel their kit quite as thrillingly and rhythmically as Watts. The crowd was similarly moved during an electrifying exchange between Blanchard and Marsalis and in truth the excitement never abated from start to finish of a buoyant set.

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