Thailand International Jazz Conference, January 28-30, 2011
The workshops on the third day offered a talk by the Rangsit University Faculty on the history of jazz education and an analysis of jazz schools as well as advise on preparation for post-graduate studies. The talk was held in Thai. What was conspicuously absent as a theme at the TIJC, though it came up as a point of discussion with numerous musicians over the course of the three-day event was the matter of the prospects for graduating jazz musicians to be able to perform in Bangkok or beyond. Pratak Faisupagarn, a lifelong jazz advocate, is blunt in his appraisal of employment opportunities: "It is difficult to find gigs. Students here have a great opportunity to learn, especially from the workshops with Perez and Rosenwinkel, but I don't know where they can all play. There aren't many venues." Khun Faisupagarn, who teaches harmonics and ear training at the Supagarn School of Music he founded, is the author three books on jazz, including one on the history of important women in jazz and he was the recipient of the TIJC Lifetime Achievement Award in '10.
Khun Faisupagarn remembers listing to the Voice of America, and recalls when Bangkok hosted the Count Basie Orchestra for a week, saxophonist Stan Getz passed through, with young pianist Jan Johansson in his band, and vibraphonist Gary Burton played in the City of Angels, too. Khun Faisupagarn studied guitar at Beklee in the early '80s, and has presented jazz on radio and television as well as in newspapers, but after decades immersed in the music as practitioner and educator he acknowledges an important change in the music: "Jazz is not just American music anymore," he says. "Jazz is freedom. It's whatever you want to say. It's true that its roots are American but it can happen anywhere in the world."
Khun Faisupagarn's observation made sense, considering the undeniable expansion in the geographical territory that jazz inhabits and the degree of regionalization of its sound (think Scandinavia, the UK, Italy etc.), and it was precisely this question of regional authorship that lay at the heart of the workshop, "Developing the Australian Jazz Real Book," by guitarist Tim Nikolsky. Australia has a large number of jazz festivals, a strong trad jazz movement and an impressive number of contemporary jazz musicians of great talent. Yet Nikolsky, gigging in and around Melbourne, became aware of the significant number of Australian-penned compositions which nevertheless, are submerged to a large degree by the standard American jazz Real Books.
Nikolsky pointed out: "Influences from overseas can be good, but also not so good." It is perhaps worth noting that some of the most interesting, most passionately played music at TIJC were original compositions. Why was nobodyother than the authorplaying these Australian compositions, Nikolsky asked himself. He concluded that the reason for this was simply the ready availability of the American jazz Real Books. As his Ph.D, project Nikolsky set out to see if there was support for the idea of an Australian jazz Real Book, and conducted a nationwide survey of jazz musicians who gave their overwhelming support to the idea. Nikolsky asked 200 jazz musicians to recommend tunes for inclusion in an eventual Real Book, and he was inundated with suggestions covering most of the history of jazz in Australia; enough for three Real Books, in fact. Nikolsky transcribed 300 compositions, and the 500-page Australian Jazz Real Book is hopefully going to go to print in the near future. It will be fascinating to see how such a Real Book impacts on the Australian jazz scene.