Thailand International Jazz Conference, January 28-30, 2011
Prior to the commencement of the evening's main stage program, the 16-piece Thai Tem gave a performance of Thai folk music with a contemporary sound. Traditional stringed and percussive instrumentsseveral of Chinese originfused with drums, electric bass, guitar and keyboards in a mellow and melodious performance fronted by vocalists Pattaraporn Sangsamang and Jongsirin Saengwiru. In the future, it is likely that Thai jazz will experiment with its indigenous folk forms and the combination of timbres, rhythms and melodies could make for a fascinating fusion. A great example of the possibilities of fusing traditional Asia music with jazz can be heard on Taiwanese band Sizhukong's excellent recording Paper Eagle (Sizhukong, 2009) and it could be of interest to Thai jazz students interested in exploring their own musical traditions. For the time being however, Thai jazz draws its inspiration almost exclusively from the American tradition.
One of Thailand's premier organists/keyboard players, Neung Jakkawal, had the honor of starting the second day's main stage program. Jakkawal brought a modernist touch to the TIJC with his eclectic mixture of keyboard fusion virtuosity, funk and Latin grooves. The rhythm section of bassist Patcharapong Ruenghirunwang and drummer Kridsana Putpring proved to be versatile and dynamic in their support. Guitarist Nuttapun Seangsiangfa took a couple of searching solos, particularly on a powerful Latin-jazz number and the quintet became a sextet when Steve Cannon lent his muscular, clear trumpet voice to the mix. One rather vapid vocal number seemed out of place in an otherwise bustling set, but was salvaged to a degree by a wonderful piano break from the leader.
Three guitarists on one stage sounds like a recipe for excess, but the watchword for the Silapkorn University Faculty Jazz Ensemble was balance, and it gave an assured and often exhilarating performance. Playing as a quintet, a sextet or as the full nonet, the arrangements allowed for diversity of textures: on one track, guitar and tenor saxophone were pitched together; on another, soprano and tenor sax dovetailed. Dan Phillips laid down a gritty guitar vamp, over which saxophone soared on his excellent composition, "No Exit, No Return," and Hong's deceptively light yet buoyant touch on drums and Pornchart Viriyapark's probing bass provided both anchor and spring for the ensemble. Phillips is a unique voice and his utterly contemporary sounding solo was an admirable display of musicality trumping virtuosity, though his chops are considerable. Established musicians and dedicated jazz instructors all, the individual members of the ensemble inherently understand the need to submit to the collective sound and the result was a coherent and stirring performance.
The guitar is the instrument of choice in Thailand, as witnessed by a total of nine out of fourteen entrants to the Solo Competition who played guitar. Students of guitar had packed Kurt Rosenwinkel's workshop earlier in the day, and there was a buzz of anticipation about his headlining concert. This was Rosenwinkel's Standards Trio, though the selection of material differed considerably from Reflections (Wommusic, 2009). Students sitting in front of the low stage were able to see Rosenwinkel's chord improvisations up close, supporting the melody of Thelonious Monk's "Ruby My Dear" and Jaki Byard's "Mrs. Parker of K.C." The rhythmic accompaniment of bassist Revis and drummer Stranahan was equally compelling. Revis held things down unselfishly, though he blossomed on a beguiling solo of great lyricism on the Jack Segal/Fisher number Marvin "When Sunny Gets Blue." Stranahan's stick work was impressive, too, whether applying deft brushes or in more animated mode, as on Coltrane's rapid-fire "26:2."