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Live Reviews

Hong Kong International Jazz Festival, Days 7-8, October 1-2, 2011

By Published: October 18, 2011
Bassist Gulli Gudmundsson's "Experience" was an impressive number which built slowly from its spacious sound at the beginning, with Vloeimans' trumpet decidedly fragile-sounding, like Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
Mathias Eick
's, to a denser group sound. Jeroen van Vliet's Fender Rhodes layers and Jasper van Hulten's powerful drumming stirred things up, laying the ground for Vloeimans to unleash a soaring solo. Elements of 1960s-inspired electronic-jazz and bop colored the band's language, and the use of loops, echo, and electronic textures lent a more modern aesthetic. This was particularly evident on the hard grooving "Hyper," inspired by the music of Rotterdam DJ Git Hyper. Trip-hop rhythms and dark Rhodes textures combined with Vloeimans' pretty melodic motif to create a heady cocktail.

Eric Vloeimans

The quartet rounded things off with a ballad, "Images of Washington," with Vloeimans trumpet taking the lyrical vocal part originally sung on the album Gatecrashin' (Challenge Records, 2007) by Fay Lovsky. There was real warmth in Vloeimans' delivery, and his solo ended with a lovely bent note. In a recording career stretching back almost twenty years, Vloeimans has tended to recruit different musicians for each new recording project. However, this quartet has been together for four years or so, and in van Vliet, Gudmundsson and van Hulten, Vloeimans has exactly the kind of cohesive, intuitive musicians he needs to best showcase his exciting, original music.

With three stages hosting bands simultaneously, it wasn't possible to catch every act. Over on the Circle Stage the quartet of Blanca Gallice opened the penultimate day, followed by Hong Kong singer Ginger Kwan, the Simin Tander Quartet—this time with a grand piano—and the Alexander Cunha Group from Brazil. The third and smallest stage, the Mobile Stage, hosted three local bands, Hi-Tone, Young Cats Quartet and RUM. And from morning until sunset, the tireless Pegasus Vanguard Marching Band went back and forth between the Square and Circle stages, adding their own spirit to the festival.

Some of the local musicians were unhappy with the Mobile Stage—a small, pavilion-type setup on the pathway between the two larger stages—and, as the South China Morning Post reported—one musician refused to play, complaining at the lack of a suitable protective cover in case of rain. TV and print journalists descended on the Mobile Stage, a curious show of interest in a festival which otherwise received little, if any, in-depth media coverage. A number of musicians said—unsurprisingly—that they would have preferred to play on the larger stages. It was all a bit of a storm in a teacup, but surely the chance to add the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival to one's CV would have been cause for celebration for musicians, most of whom have yet to record CDs and many of whom don't have regular gigs in town or a MySpace page.

Mobile Stage

There was a healthy percentage of musicians from Hong Kong or the mainland at HKIJF 2011. The festival organizers deserve a pat on the back for promoting the likes of Wilson Lam, Acid Live, Ginger Kwan, SIU2 and half a dozen lesser known (for now) local bands. Maybe the media could help promote local musicians at next year's festival by printing interviews and profiles in the weeks running up to the event. At the end of the day, musicians—no matter how talented—have to work their way up from the bottom; American jazz musicians call it "paying your dues." While the organizers will doubtless study ways to improve the festival for the next edition, the media can also play a more constructive role in helping these aspiring young musicians onto bigger and greater stages.

The early evening began with guitarist Nguyen Le
Nguyen Le
Nguyen Le
's Saiyuki, an ambitious musical adventure which united the rhythms of India with traditional Japanese music and Le's own inimitable idiom on electric guitar. Mieko Miyazoki on koto (Japanese zither) and vocals, tabla player Prabhu Edouard, and Le have been playing together since 2009, and there was a very strong chemistry at work during a constantly engaging performance. Le's choice of the name Saiyuki—based on Wu Cheng'en's 16th century Chinese novel, "Journey to the West"—is a symbol of Le's personal quest to seek the bonds that unite different branches of music.

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