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Live Reviews

Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival: 19-20 May, 2012

By Published: June 8, 2012
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
/altoist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's "Shaw Nuff" has been a staple of Watts concerts for years, and it was easy to see why the tenor player never tires of this classic bebop workout. Watching a quartet this good going flat out and throwing all caution to the wind was tremendously exciting. Watts and Monteiro's highly charged exchange towards the song's end stirred the crowd once more.


Watts' "Oasis" matched lyricism with searing intensity. Monteiro's stunning solo—traversing the entire length of the keys in bold and sweeping runs—brought a thumbs-up from Watts. Smith—who has played with the likes of singer Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
and trumpeter Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
—impressed with a soulful intervention, accompanied by the ever intuitive Kelley. Another Watts' staple, "Reaching Up," brought important closing statements from all, and a merited standing ovation from the crowd.

The honor of closing the first day of KLIJF 2012 fell to UK jazz-funk stalwarts Incognito , who gave a highly energetic performance featuring songs from its 15th studio album, Surreal (Shanachie, 2012) as well as material stretching back the length and breadth of its storied 33-year career. Founder/guitarist/producer Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick let the crowd know from the first notes of the James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
-inspired "Love, Joy, Understanding" that Incognito's music is all about communication. Bluey's funky guitar riff and trumpeter Sid Gauld's hot trumpet fired up the band, which worked overtime to lively up the audience. Eventually, through sheer energy, they persuaded the crowd to leave its seats and boogie on down in front of the stage.

Incredibly, over 1,500 musicians from all over the world have taken the stage with Incognito over the years—many for just one performance—and the League of Nations makeup of the band (members hail from Mauritius, Scotland, England, Italy, Indonesia, Swaziland, Germany and Portugal) found its way in to the grooves and melodies of the music.

Singers Dira Sugandi, Natalie Williams, Mo Brandis and Tony Momrelle exuded Motown soulfulness and combined powerfully on "Talkin' Loud" and the deep-soul "N.O.T." Individually, the singers were given plenty of space to shine. Momrelle's interpretation of Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
b.1950
keyboard
's "As" sounded unerringly like the soul-pop giant; Sugandi was a bundle of soulful energy on "something About the Girl," and Williams brought a little chill out on the slower, "Can't Get You out of My Head"; Brandis—back in the Incognito family after two years touring with singer Sade—impressed on "Labor of Love," a real throwback to soul's '70s heyday.


The subtle funk of new number "Above the Night" contrasted with the heavier grooves and percussion-driven "Expresso Madureira." The latter number was a tribute to Brazilian '70s funk/jazz/soul/salsa band, Banda Black Rio and featured a cracking exchange between drummer Francesco Mendolio and percussionist João Patano. "Always There" brought the crowd to its feet, and everybody partied on through Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing"—with the brass section executing nifty dance steps in unison— and the encore, "I'll Hear Your Name." Incognito's soulful, funky performance was a musical celebration. Its energy and enthusiasm was simply infectious, and crowned a great first day at KLIJF. Little wonder this band, led by the indomitable Bluey, is still going strong in its fourth decade of existence.

Though it has taken a while for Kuala Lumpur to establish a jazz festival, it has probably the most vibrant jazz scene of any city in Malaysia, with several clubs promoting top local and international live jazz. Thinking ahead, the stated aim of the KLIJF is to promote local jazz through integrated programs throughout the year. The logic is simple; local jazz benefits and so does the KLIJF, as any event programmed throughout the year will of course help promote the festival. The healthy number of Malaysian jazz musicians on the program, as well as ex-patriot jazz musicians based in KL, was proof that the KLIJF has started as it intends to continue.

Day two of the KIJF 2012 got underway promptly at four o'clock with the RTM Jazz Orchestra—the oldest orchestra in Malaysia, which was formed by Ahmad Merican. Celebrating its 50th year, the RTM was led for many years by the late Alphonso Soliano, a jazz pianist who brought jazz to Malaysia in the 1950s. The orchestra benefited from the tutelage of multi-reed player Charlie Mariano
Charlie Mariano
Charlie Mariano
1923 - 2009
reeds
and trumpeter Herb Pomeroy
Herb Pomeroy
Herb Pomeroy
b.1930
trumpet
in the 1960s. It was clear from the get-go that this 15-piece band has genuine jazz pedigree, as the opening numbers, "Tribute" and "Dawn in KL" saw the ensemble swing with the ease of a Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
band. Solos from the horn section, guitar and drums were all short and to the point—the orchestra's voice was the thing.


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