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Live Reviews

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

By Published: October 18, 2011
This is nothing new for any of the three. Miyazaki's cross-cultural adventures have seen her apply the koto to the music of European classical composers Bach, Debussy and Chopin, record an album of pianist Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' music, and perform with a Corsican choir. Edouard has played with a host of classical Indian musicians, contemporary dancers, and jazz musicians such as saxophonist Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
and pianist Mario Linginha. Le has a long and eclectic musical history, fusing jazz with traditional Vietnamese instrumentation in his mid-'90s band, Tales from Viet-Nam. When three such open-minded virtuosos combine their respective talents, the music, as was the case this evening, is as beautiful as it is unclassifiable.


Nguyen Le




Although most of the songs were from the trios' debut release, Saiyuki (Act, 2009), the show began with the unreleased "Magic Constant," which served as an appetizer for what was to come. Zither, tabla and guitar weaved in and out of each other's slipstream in a beautifully conversant meeting between east and west Asia. Although the electric guitar is hardly synonymous with Asian culture, Le's singing lines contained the unmistakable tonalities of his Vietnamese roots. The striking curves of Le's guitar—specially designed by his luthier—are inspired by Chinese calligraphy.

The wonderfully upbeat "Sangam" and the konnakol-led "Sweet Ganesh" brought to mind the spirit of guitarist John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
b.1942
guitar
's Shakti/Remember Shakti groups, with Prabhu leading the crowd step-by-step through rudimentary konnakol, to everyone's delight. Miyazaki's beguiled on the former, constantly moving the bridges on her zither and bending the strings to produce a cascade of beautiful sounds. Le, a sensitive accompanist, coaxed Indian colors from his strings as Prabhu's lyrics spoke of the joy of playing music for and with each other. As all three musicians stretched out, a strong wind blew dry ice around the musicians, creating the illusion that this music was indeed, from the heavens.

The Miyazaki composition, "Izanagi Izanami"—as related by Miyazaki— tells the story of the creation of a god, and Miyazaki and Prabhu exchanged vocals which represented seemed to represent lovers' coupling. Miyazaki's voice, rising in pitch and strength had an orgasmic quality. I asked her after the show if this was the case: "Maybe." She said. "Maybe?' I asked. "'Maybe' in Japanese means 'yes'" she replied, laughing. All the while a storm was brewing, which although not of typhoon proportions, nevertheless added to the intensity of the performance. Nguyen Le's Saiyuki gave an electrifying performance at the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival and one can only hope that this singular, genre-defying trio will continue on its musical quest for a long time to come.


Poncho Sanchez




Conguero Poncho Sanchez
Poncho Sanchez
Poncho Sanchez
b.1951
congas
's Latin jazz ensemble paid tribute to two of the founders of the genre, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
and conguero Chano Pozo
Chano Pozo
1915 - 1948
congas
. A Sanchez original, "El Conguero" opened the set in buoyant style, with the leader raising a sweat and trumpeter Ron Francis Blake unleashing a flurry of hot notes in a rousing ensemble descargar. "Psychedelic Blues" was dedicated to another Latin giant of percussion, the late Willie Bobo
Willie Bobo
Willie Bobo
1934 - 1983
percussion
, with Ron Hardt impressing on a muscular tenor saxophone solo. This number segued into "Guajira" and this time solo space was filled by trombonist Francisco Torres.

Guest trumpeter Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
let rip with a pulsating solo on the first Pozo/Gillespie number of the set, "Guachi Guaro." Two more Gillespie classics, "Con Alma" and "Groovin' High" were featured, with Joey De Leon, Jr.'s bongo solo on the former complementing the conga's rhythms in swinging style. For sheer excitement, however, the exhilarating call-and-response exchange between trumpeters Blanchard and Blake at the end of the set—against a backdrop of the National Day fireworks display—had the crowd roaring its approval. There was however, the feeling that the band was only really getting into its stride by the end of the set.


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