Ron Cole Trio: Vientiane, Laos, January 21, 2012

Ron Cole Trio: Vientiane, Laos, January 21, 2012
Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Ron Cole Trio
MarkTwo Pub and Restaurant
Vientiane, Laos
January 21, 2012

The fact that a jazz trio came from Bangkok to play a swish new venue in the Laotian capital—one that wouldn't look out of place in the City of Angels—says something about the rapid pace of change in Laos. This was no embassy-sponsored gig either; this was private enterprise in action, something that Communist Lao is getting pretty darn nifty at. Another sign of these changing times—and a very encouraging one—was the guest appearance of several Lao jazz musicians, self-taught at that. This is newsworthy in itself, as jazz is about as far removed from the average Lao psyche as is hurrying.

The concert came about when jazz guitarist Vangthanousone Bouaphanh, a.k.a. Jazznova, invited his online guitar teacher, American Ron Cole, to come to Vientiane and play. A longtime Bangkok resident, Cole is a consummate jazz guitarist who impressed at last year's Thailand International Jazz Conference. He is also an undoubted romantic at heart, shouldering much of the cost to bring this trio from Bangkok to hook up and play with his student, plus host an afternoon jazz clinic to boot.

Lao Jazznova

The trio began with "Soup Bone," a delightful Hammond-flavored blues which swung with a groove reminiscent of Wes Montgomery or Grant Green. Both these guitarists seemed to be references for Cole, who matched effortless lyricism with an exciting attack. Drummer Thitirat Dilokhattakarn provided inventive, in-the-pocket rhythms, and keyboardist Teerapoj Plitakul doubled as one half of the rhythm team and as an excellent soloist. Cole's mazy blues solo was followed by organ and drums in turn, before the trio returned to the head and signed off.

Original, was the trio's take on saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter's eternally popular "Footprints." Shorter's beautiful melody was the glue in what was essentially a funk workout. Cole demonstrated that less is more in a couple of measured solos. Plitakul's charged keyboard solo had more than a little of the flavor of keyboardist/pianist Herbie Hancock, and throughout the course of the set Plitakul demonstrated that he also shares an openness in his playing, and versatility, with the elder statesman of jazz-funk keyboards. Dilokhattakarn's extended drum solo—encased behind a glass sound wall—brought appreciative applause from the mostly young audience.

The trio became a quintet with the arrival on stage of singer Biby Vilinthone and guitarist Lao Jazznova. Vilinthone did a fine job on "Fly Me to the Moon" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Girl from Ipanema," though she wasn't helped by a particularly muddy mic sound. Vocals are a prerequisite of any show for a Lao audience, as instrumental music is not the norm outside of the folkloric realm, so the more gentle swing of vocal jazz standards and the easy sway of bossa nova connected with the audience. Lao Jazznova really impressed with his brief but tasteful interventions on his Washburn, notably on "Fly Me to the Moon." As a jazz guitarist he's clearly the genuine article, with a non-flashy, soulful approach to his instrument.

Biby Vilinthone

When saxophonist Pao Udon joined the group, the energy levels were raised once more. Udon's vibrant solos revealed another talented musician with a feel for jazz, and it was a thrill to see these young Lao musicians holding their own on stage with the infinitely more experienced Thai and American instructors. Cole was generous with the spotlight and encouragement he afforded the Lao musicians, and perhaps held back just a little, refusing to steal the limelight. His faith was fully justified. A rousing interpretation of trumpeter Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" saw lively closing statements from all. Vilinthone returned to sing "Sunny," and Cole remarked afterwards that this was only the second time she'd sung Bobby Hebb's much-covered R&B classic, which made her accomplished performance all the more impressive.

The high-energy, soulful performance was first rate, and won over the largely Lao crowd. The ex-pats in the audience expressed uniform delight at the quality of the music, and the mere fact that it was happening at all—as the local music scene in Vientiane, though slowly improving, is still rather predictable. The young "'i- Generation' of Lao (i-Phone, i-Pod, i-Pad) has access to recorded music as never before, and is hungry for live music. Hopefully, MarkTwo and other venues in Vientiane will program more evenings of this type, and bring quality musicians of all stripes from the neighboring countries to help inspire budding Lao musicians, and to provide some relief from the tyranny of boy-band monopoly. Jazz is still very much in its infancy in Laos, but its baby steps are, so far, very promising.

Photo Credit
All photos: Ian Patterson

Related Video


More Articles

Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights Live Reviews Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Tallinn Music Week 2017 Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read Miles From India at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Live From Birmingham: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Erja Lyytinnen & The Impossible Gentlemen" Live Reviews Live From Birmingham: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Erja...
by Martin Longley
Published: November 2, 2016
Read "Beale Street Music Festival 2016" Live Reviews Beale Street Music Festival 2016
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "We Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2016
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 15, 2016
Read "Brilliant Corners 2017" Live Reviews Brilliant Corners 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!