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Penang Island Jazz Festival 2014

Ian Patterson By

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Around one hundred jazz festivals have started up in Asia in the past decade, with fifty three in Indonesia alone. For festival directors funding and programming provide the major challenges. For musicians, marketing themselves and finding an audience is the priority. Of course, such concerns are universal but these are relatively new challenges for many Asian jazz promoters and musicians.

It was surprising to hear panelist Victor Kye, Deputy Director of the Jarasum International Jazz Festival say that there is basically no market for jazz in South Korea, particularly given that the JIJF draws a quarter of a million people every year. If the appetite for jazz is really so small in South Korea it would explain why the government is so actively promoting South Korean jazz and contemporary folk music abroad.

Yuri Sasamoto, Assistant Programmer of Blue Note Japan pointed out that the appetite for classic American-style jazz seems to be waning in Japan, with the younger generation preferring more contemporary styles. This trend may in fact be universal, to a greater or lesser degree depending on where you look, but certainly Asian jazz musicians are more likely to find an audience at home—and even more so abroad—if their music is original.

Pearce's presentation outlined the nuts and bolts of the EFG London Jazz Festival in terms of the numbers of concerts, the venue partners and audience figures. The London Jazz Festival is largely unrecognizable from the 1980s when its focus was predominantly on American jazz and its iconic practitioners. These days the LGF is much more expansive in its world view of jazz and has built up an impressive network—particularly across Europe—of embassies, promoters, agents, venues and other festivals. Collaboration and partnership, underlined Pearce, are essential ingredients in building a sustainable festival.

The partnership extends to the musicians. Following the lead of younger festivals like Poland's Jazztopad, the EFG London Jazz Festival in the last two editions has commissioned dozens of new works from jazz musicians. Pearce also drew attention to Serious' initiative Take Five Europe, which offers ten musicians from across Europe the opportunity to increase their profile, musical skills and networking savvy during an intensive week-long residential course. By investing in the musicians Serious is building partnerships that can only strengthen the EFG London Jazz Festival—and pan-European jazz scenes—in years to come.

Pearce was joined by panelists Lynette Irwin, Director of the Melbourne Women's International Jazz Festival and Frank Bolder, Program Manager of the North Sea Jazz Festival. All concurred on the importance of networking and collaboration, with Pearce also emphasizing honesty as of overriding importance in successful, lasting collaborations.

Irwin also expressed the desire for closer collaborative ties between Australia and Asia, a theme that also came up during the Jazz Beyond Europe section of the European Jazz Conference 2014 held in Helsinki. An Australasian version of jazzahead!—perhaps rotating host country every year—might provide a valuable platform for emerging jazz festivals like the PIJF as well as lead to potentially greater collaboration both regionally and between the continents.

Jo Young Deok Trio

Winner of the grand prize at the Jazz Concourse Competition at the Jarasum International Jazz Festival in 2012, the Jo Young Deok Trio, consisting of guitarist Deok, bassist Park Jiwoong and drummer Choi Joseph got the final day of the PIJF 2014 off to a great start with the most straight-ahead set of the festival. The trio's debut album Attelage (EVANS, 2013) consisted of eleven originals, as well as tunes by Charlie Parker, Carla Bley and Django Reinhardt. However, in introducing several new tunes at the PIJF it appears that this trio is not content to rest on its laurels.

Deok's fluid articulation and melodic lines drew from both Korean folkloric sources and the jazz guitar tradition as typified by Joe Pass. Joseph was an animated presence on sticks and a subtle accompanist on brushes. In between his trio partners Park swung steadily enough, though the trio might have conveyed more excitement had the bassist played a little more out now and again. All in all, the Jo Young Deok Trio impressed with an engaging set that held the promise of greater things to come in the future.

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