All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

8

Penang Island Jazz Festival 2016

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
A festival can inspire a young person to believe they can be artists, they can be a performer and they can make a living. Festivals can be important for that. —Joe Sidek, Director, George Town Festival, Penang
12 + 1 Penang Island Jazz Festival
Bayview Beach Resort/Various Venues
Penang, Malaysia
December 1-4, 2016

A tongue-in-cheek marketing ploy, or fear of inviting disaster? The Malaysians are doubtless no more or no less suspicious than folk in most places, but the organizers of the 12th + 1 Penang Island Jazz Festival, as it was officially billed, perhaps weren't taking any chances. Although the monsoon season in Western Malaysia isn't too severe, a late afternoon downpour could have put a downer on this outdoor event that stands as the longest continually running jazz festival in Malaysia.

Happily, despite grey skies, the PIJF 2016 passed off without meteorological calamity and served up its usual smorgasbord of jazz and jazz-related music to small but enthusiastic crowds. Maybe the numbers counted after all.

The Penang Island Jazz Festival has come a long way since it was founded by Paul Augustin and Chin Chi Yeun of Capricorn Connections in 2004. What was then a low-key festival for a predominantly local, Penang audience, has gradually evolved into a truly international festival for an audience of around 5,000, the majority of whom travel from outside Penang.

If numbers were visibly down this year, it may have much to do with the hit the Malaysian tourism industry seems to have taken, with one source estimating that national/international tourism is down by as much as 30% this year.

Still, as Artistic Director Augustin told All About Jazz in a 2013 interview, the PIJF has weathered its share of storms over the years and has always bounced back. Sponsors may have come and gone but the important constant over the years—increasingly so in the past half dozen editions—has been the growth of the PIJF's musical program, not so much in volume, although the festival has expanded, as in quality.

In recent years the PIJF has attracted the likes of In The Country, Youn Sun Nah, Martin Taylor, Francesca Han, Rio Sidik, Jazz Kamikaze—the longstanding band featuring Marius Neset and Morten Schantz—Rusconi, Richard Bona, Sizhukong, Boi Akih and Tommy Emmanuel, to cite just a few of the acts who have graced the main Jazz by the Beach stage.

The palm-tree flanked Jazz by the Beach stage is situated in the gardens of the Bayview Beach Resort, just yards from the beach and about fifteen miles from the World Heritage centre of George Town, with its wonderfully colorful mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures animating the labyrinth streets and narrow alleys of one of the last corners of Old Asia.

Other venues at the PIJF included the neighbouring Hard Rock Hotel and the Bayview Beach Resort lobby, where the Creative Malaysia stages provided platforms for mostly young, up-and-coming Malaysian bands. The Tropical Spice Garden again played host to a ritual 7am concert (a highlight of PIJF 2016 for many), while the Bayview Beach Resort's Crystal Ballroom held a series of workshops, presentations and panel discussions.

Days One & Two

The first two days of PIJF were relatively low-key. Day one featured the opening concert of PIJF 2016, at 23 Love Lane, saw guitarist Kelvyn Yeang with singer Viv Adam, guitarist/singer-songwriter Az Samad, and singer-songwriter Liyana Fizi present an evening of acoustic music.

On day two, the Creative Malaysia program got underway, with thirteen bands rotating on the fringe stages of the Bayview Beach Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel, a program that ran over the next three days. The music on show covered a wide range of styles, from singer-songwriter fare and pop/rock cover acts to indie rock, jazz piano duos and pulsating ethnic folk vibes.

Basement Syndicate impressed with its soul 'n' funk-inflected rock, with a twist of jazz-cum-jam band groove. Vocalist Teddy Adhitya's strong, soulful delivery—not a million miles away from Steve Winwood—was out front on a couple of numbers, while bassist Idris Koh and drummer Omar Ibrahim's driving rhythms underpinned guitarist Uga Swastadi's soaring, blues-tinged flights. Basement Syndicate was, without a doubt, one of the most visceral and distinctive acts to have performed over the years on the Creative Malaysia stages at PIJF -surely a band with a bright future.

Another original act was the eight-piece band Sada Borneo, which fused electric instrumentation with traditional Malaysian instruments including sapeh—a lute-type instrument from central Borneo—, gamelan gongs and drums. Its infectious pounding rhythms, chants and well-defined melodies were a hit, although given the diversity of instruments at its disposal a little more dynamic range, compositionally speaking, might have resulted in greater impact. That said, Sada Borneo oozed confidence and charisma, and could well become, with a touch more refinement, a festival favorite in the vein of Aseana Percussion Unit.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
  • 20 by Ian Patterson
  • Henry by Rosarita Crisafi
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
20

20

Self-Produced
2018

buy
Henry

Henry

Self Produced
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage Live Reviews
Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at...
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: June 13, 2018
Read Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong Live Reviews
Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong
by Rob Garratt
Published: June 11, 2018
Read Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art Live Reviews
Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar Live Reviews
Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar
by Barry Witherden
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 9, 2018
Read "Monterey Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Monterey Jazz Festival 2017
by Josef Woodard
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Radio Underground at The Last Stop Sports Bar" Live Reviews Radio Underground at The Last Stop Sports Bar
by Doug Collette
Published: May 12, 2018
Read "Dixie Dregs at Lincoln Theatre" Live Reviews Dixie Dregs at Lincoln Theatre
by Eric Thiessen
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Sur Ecoute at The Bronx Bar & 'Cue" Live Reviews Sur Ecoute at The Bronx Bar & 'Cue
by Barry Witherden
Published: March 1, 2018
Read "Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room" Live Reviews Temple University Jazz Band at The Appel Room
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 1, 2018