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Live Reviews

Hong Kong International Jazz Festival, Days 1-3, September 25-27, 2011

By Published: October 4, 2011
The lyrics, as much as the melody, of Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind" seemed tailor-made for Tander (left); the combination of the poetic ("like the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream") and the surreal ("the world is like an apple whirling silently in space") summed up Tander's unique vocals, which draw from diverse sources both linguistically and stylistically. Whether singing in Pashtu, Spanish or English, or her own striking improvised language, Tander was both lyrical and challenging.

On occasion, as during "Becoming," Tander's improvisations recalled Korean jazz singer Youn Sun Nah
Youn Sun Nah
Youn Sun Nah

vocalist
, though the language was her own. The trio demonstrated skilful interplay, raising and lowering the tension and altering the dynamics in subtle yet striking ways. Pianist Leidinger—playing only his second gig with the quartet—gave an assured performance and, when given rein, demonstrated fine chops. His solo on an Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau
b.1940
vocalist
number was particularly soulful, though the song was most memorable for an improvised exchange between Tander and Nillesen, with the drummer dropping lots of bass pedal bombs to powerful effect. On "Closed Eyes," Nillesen again caught the eye with his controlled freedom and striking accents.

Tander's dreamlike rendition of singer/songwriter Nick Drake's "Riverman," with Nillesen on brushes, was a nicely intimate interlude. A composition penned by Heineking, featured a lyrical bass intro, before developing into a feature for piano, Tander loosely mirroring the lovely bass melody in a strong number. The slow bolero, "Obssession," saw Tander switching to Spanish, brooding one minute and passionate the next. A lament , "Between the Bars," closed an absorbing set on another intimate note. Tander is a singular talent; her obvious vocal strengths and commanding stage presence, with excellent trio support, made an impression on the small but appreciative audience, and she is clearly a name to watch out for.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to make the only concert of the day, the Irene Atman Quartet, at the Mira, as the time clashed with one in the series of In Dialogue With Jazz talks. "Jazz in South East Asia," brought together a panel consisting of three regional jazz festival directors: Paul Augustin of the Penang Island Jazz Festival, Santi Wonsawat of the Samui International Jazz Festival in Thailand, and Atsuko Yahsima of the Tokyo Jazz Festival. Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of South East Asian geography will know that Japan does not fall in that region, but nobody was quibbling with the opportunity to gain an insight one of Asia's most prestigious jazz festivals.


From left: David Miller, Atsuko Yashima, Santi Wongsawat, Paul Augustin


Broadly speaking, the talk centered around the challenges of setting up and running a sustainable jazz festival in Asia, though moderator David Miller—former Director of Operations and Finance at San Francisco Jazz— summed up the feelings of the panel: "It's been said that you can make a small fortune in running a jazz festival as long as you start off with a large fortune in the first place." Yashima, whose Tokyo Jazz Festival celebrated its 10th edition this year, gave a presentation on the tsunami, its aftereffects in the worst affected areas, and the efforts of jazz musicians to help boost peoples' moral.

In a short segment of a mini-documentary, keyboardist Bob James
Bob James
Bob James
b.1939
piano
came to Japan and gave a recital of his specially composed piece of music with musicians from Iwate, which was devastated by the tsunami. It was clearly an emotional occasion for all those present at the concert. Yahsima recounting how one man had said that he had taken no pleasure from anything in life since the tsunami until that concert, and that it lifted his spirit and encouraged him to go forward. Music alone isn't going to rebuild Iwate but, as this documentary showed, it did go a long way to help bolster the spirit—individually and collectively—of the town. Yashima noted, "I don't think that any other type of music is able to cross boundaries as quickly as jazz," and drew comparison to the jazz community's response in the face of Hurricane Katrina, which wreaked such terrible damage on New Orleans in 2005.


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