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Bangkok Jazz Festival: Days 4-6

Ian Patterson By

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Days 1-3 | Days 4-6
Bangkok Jazz Festival
Central Plaza, Bangkok
March 9-14, 2010


The fourth day of the Bangkok Jazz Festival featured only one act on the main stage, so there was a chance to catch some of the music on the second stage. Apart from the university student bands there were several performances from the music instructors. Sporting slightly more grey hair and slightly more rotund figures than their students, their music was correspondingly more steeped in the bebop tradition and the playing more fluent. Particularly noteworthy was the performance of the Changton Kunjara Quartet, which played a lively, boppish set.

One or two foreign bands were invited to participate on the second stage, and the third evening saw a notable performance from Jazz for Kicks, led by Philippine singer Sandra Viray, whose energetic set of mostly standards won over the small but enthusiastic crowd. The distinctive vocalist Viray and her band injected real swing into old chestnuts like "Get your Kicks on Route Sixty Six" and a surprisingly fast rendition of "Honeysuckle Rose." The one original tune, a ballad titled "I Found Love," was recently recorded by Viray with Flora Purim and Airto Moreira. The highlight of the hour-long set, however, was an upbeat interpretation of the Nina Simone classic "You Know How I Feel."

Before the main program began every evening, the crowd rose to the national anthem, which is surely one of the most moving anthems in the world. It is customary in Thailand for people to halt what they are doing when the anthem is played morning and afternoon. It is difficult for outsiders to appreciate just how revered and loved King Bhumibol is.

Jazz Kamikaze, the only band appearing on the main stage on the fourth evening. is a regular visitor to Bangkok. However, like the lizard which sheds its tail, the band has cast off its former skin and totally reinvented itself to the point that the music was largely unrecognizable from their last visits to the kingdom.

Formerly instrumental, the material performed exclusively from their just-released CD, the aptly named Supersonic Revolution(Hitman Jazz, 2010), was entirely vocal, with Morten Schantz spending a good deal of the show standing front-stage at the microphone. Gone is the grand piano and in its place a vocorder. There is now a distinctly pop-art aesthetic about the new music, anthemic, lyrical, and very, very loud. With three keyboards on stage the set-up had the appearance of a Kraftwork show, though there the comparison ends.

Saxophonist Marius Neset peppered the set with solos lively by even his standards, but guitarist Daniel Heloy Davidsen played much more of a supporting role, laying down heavy-metal power chords and riffing with relish, while limiting his solos to short, fiery bursts.

Drummer Anton Eger pounded his kit with contagious enthusiasm, and bassist Kristor Brodgaard seemed to be attempting to murder his bass, as he laid it sideways on the stage and stood over it, not so much plucking notes from the strings as wrestling music from it menacingly. Jazz Kamikaze gives everything in concert, and that much has not changed.

From left: Kristor Brodgaard, Daniel Heloy Davidsen

In its present incarnation Jazz Kamikaze bears more comparison to Radiohead than to any particular genre of jazz though, conversing with Schantz and Brodgaard after the show, they cited Charles Mingus and Miles Davis as inspiring models of the need to reinvent themselves. Schantz explained how Jazz Kamikaze's transformation has happened gradually over the last three years and how the music has been experimented with and refined on the stage.

There is a stadium rock grandeur to a song like "Music is My Heroin," but the band is also capable of great subtlety, as on one of the King's compositions, an instrumental version of "Oh I Say." It is unlikely that one of His Majesty's songs, played by nearly all performers who come to Thailand, has been so thoroughly deconstructed. Schantz provided shimmering synth accompanied by Neset's beautifully lyrical soprano saxophone. It was a stunning interpretation, its brevity catching the audience unawares.

The set closed with the powerful "Acropolis," with Neset attacking his saxophone like Albert Ayler, before Schantz' vocal and keyboards steered the band through quieter, more reflective terrain. The song, transformed into a beautiful anthem, built inevitably to a rousing conclusion with the Jazz Kamikaze crew flying as one and Schantz soaring vocals filling the arena.


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