Thailand International Jazz Conference
Mahidol University School of Music
January 28-30, 2011
It's almost impossible to go anywhere in Thailand without hearing music at all hours: people sing for their own enjoyment as they go about their daily business, displaying a lack of inhibition generally absent in the West; at every turn youth strum guitars, and more often than not, bars, restaurants and clubs offer live music. Jazz admittedly, accounts for a very small proportion of this music, though the growing number of jazz festivals in locations such as Kanchanaburi, Changmai, Hua Hin and Koh Samui is bringing jazz to a wider general public.
Now in its third year, the three-day Thailand International Jazz Conference stands out from other jazz events in Thailand for a number of reasons. First, it is organized, run by and features students and teachers from the jazz department of Mahidol University, on whose handsome campus grounds it is staged; second, the program is almost exclusively jazz, unlike other festivals, where jazz tends to get buried under an avalanche of pop, generic funk and easy listening grooves; third, it has a strong educational elements; and, finally, it is notable for the quality of international artists on show. The TIJC provides a much-needed platform for the talented young jazz students to perform in a live setting, as well as a rare opportunity to observe and learn from top international jazz artists in a series of workshops, which account for almost half the TIJC program.
Another point which sets the TIJC apart is that it is a non-profit event, as Associate Professor of the College of Music at Mahidol University, Dr. Sugree Charoensook [left] explains: "Profit is not measured in cash. It is measured in humankind; the benefits that we bring to people by letting them access this music. We don't just import big names for profit; we're not a promotional company. We import big names to benefit our own musicians. We're a university; we're about the quality of education."
Certainly, the hundreds of young music students who attended workshops by trumpeter Tiger Okoshi
, the Danilo Pérez
Trio, and guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel
and Andreas Oberg
, in particular, will have come away wiser for the experience. Even the less technical, less hands-on workshops which were really Q&A sessions, provided plenty of valuable insight and, perhaps more importantly, inspiration, for the students.
Inspiring the student body is key for the TIJC's organizing committee, as Project Manager Noppadol Tirataradol and Darin Pantoomkomol, both teachers in the jazz department, explained: "We saw how other jazz festivals were all about entertainment," explains Khun Tirataradol, "and of course we want to entertain, but the focus is on education and inspiration. We want the young generation to learn from the great artists, to develop and be inspired by them." Khun Noppadol nods in agreement and adds: "We're very serious about the music at Mahidol University. We teach jazz students Duke Ellington
and so on and we emphasize swing and the blues, but we encourage the students to play whatever music they want."
There is an even deeper aim of the TIJC, reflected in its motto: "Through jazz, a society of happiness." However ambitious or idealistic the aim, there is no doubting the sincerity of the event's organizers: "We want to introduce jazz to the public," says Khun Noppadol, "we believe that jazz is love and we want to spread this music throughout society." Although it is unlikely that jazz will bring the country's politically fractured society together in loving embrace any time soon the TIJC is going in the right direction at least. At its first edition in '09, according to Khun Tirataradol, there were sometimes only about 30 students in attendance at the workshops held in the auditorium, but this year several hundred students, as well as a small but visible number of expatriate foreigners, meant that the workshops took place in front of a near-full house. The audiences attending the main stage performances in the afternoon have also grown, and although a few more chairs could be squeezed in, the TIJC is already running at almost full audience capacity. Clearly, the general public in Bangkok is catching on that the best jazz in Thailand is heard at the TIJC, some twenty kilometers outside the city center.
The media has an important role to play in helping promote the eternal musical underdog that jazz undoubtedly is, and at TIJC both print and TV media are represented. "The TIJC is a good start for the audience to understand jazz and the jazz tradition." says Anant Lerpradit, editor of Judprakai
of the Nation Multimedia Group, and an active promoter and supporter of jazz in Thailand. "It's difficult for jazz musicians in Thailand," he acknowledges, " but the audience for jazz is growing and the TIJC is a great opportunity for students and public alike to learn. "
The jazz educators also have an important contribution to make and following the opening ceremony the first workshop got underway, led by the effervescent trumpeter Tiger Okoshi. Okoshi came to the US in the '70s on his honeymoon, but it turned out to be a one-way trip. He first made a name for himself in drummer Buddy Rich
's orchestra, and in '76 he founded Tiger's Batu, a popular Boston band which featured a young Bill Frisell
on guitar. Running through numbers from New Orleans swing to Argentinean bandoneon master Astor Piazzolla
and classical composer Sergei Rachmaninov, Okoshi had the auditorium on its feet in a deconstruction of syncopated rhythm. He stressed that the rhythm is not imposed from without but that it dwells inside the performer. He urged the students to listen to classical music like Bach and Bizet to learn pacing and melody, and he underlined the role of space in music: "The silence is not silence," he said, "it is part of the rhythm."
Okoshi stressed the need for students to find a personal voice and reminded them that they are their own best resource. In perhaps the sagest advice for the usually physically undemonstrative Thais, who can look quite static onstage at times, was the advice to move their feet to the beat. Okoshi also recalled the life-altering experience of seeing trumpeter Louis Armstrong
, when he came to Osaka, Japan in '63, vividly describing the sensation he felt of Armstrong "painting the air with his trumpet." Okoshi exuded a real passion for his art and no doubt left his own colorful imprint in the minds of many in the audience.
Each of the other workshops on the first day provided food for thought; Anders Chan-TidemannKurt Rosenwinkel's managergave a talk on Music/Artist management, and advised students to play the gigs they can get wherever they can get them to build up their own sound. He also promoted the benefits of communicating and engaging with fans and building a database of emails. Bassist Eric Revis
described his initiation in saxophonist Branford Marsalis
's quartet as "trial by fire." Laughing at the memory, Revis said: "I was lost, and stayed lost for one or two years, but you learn from every situation when you're outside your comfort zone." Drummer Colin Stranahan
gave this advice: "An important thing to realize if you choose to become a musician is that music is a constant challenge; there's always something else to learn." Stranahan has studied with drum ace Ari Hoenig
, and has absorbed his melodic sensibility as witnessed on a solo rendition of saxophonist Joe Henderson
's "Inner Urge" He strongly urged drum students to learn the piano to bring a more melodic approach to their playing and talked about "pulling the sound out of the drums" rather than pushing the sound in.
Kurt Rosenwinkel gave a technically oriented workshop and stressed the importance of mental as well as physical exercises to develop different conceptual approaches to the guitar. For all the theory on improvising on chords which Rosenwinkel propounded, he left the audience with something to consider: "A lot of lessons are learned only through playing with other people."
On each of the three days the workshops/talks were broken up by a midday performance at the outdoor Oval Stage, which has the form and ambience of a small amphitheater. First up was the RMS Summit, which brought together three jazz instructors from three of the main universities in Bangkok offering jazz programs: keyboardist Teerapoj Plitakul, from Mahidol University; guitarist Changton Kunjara, from Rangsit University; and drummer Lester C. Esteban from Silpakorn University gave an impressive performance, with Khun Plitakul drawing Herbie Hancock
-inspired sounds from his Minimoog and Nord C3 organ, and Khun Kunjara executing bluesy lines. The trio was joined by guitarist Ron Cole, who displayed notable chops. The second group, Jazz Dojo, followed a more traditional line, playing the late saxophonist James Moody
's "Check Out" and trombonist J.J. Johnson
's "Lament" with assurance. Polwit Opapant impressed on saxophone and drummer Estaban played a quieter, more supportive role than he had for the RSM Summit. The one original, "Sundance," by guitarist Frank Raksakun, was a melodic, funk-based number and it rounded off a polished set.
With forty minutes between the end of the workshops in the afternoon and the beginning of the Main Stage evening program there was an opportunity to grab a bite to eat or visit the stalls selling gleaming saxophones and handsome guitars. For those with lighter wallets there were also stalls selling CDs. The TIJC is concentrated in a small area and conference goers could shuffle between the three performance areas in no time at all. The main stage is set in a tree-lined grass enclosure and with lights falling on the water of the nearby moat it makes for a very pleasant setting in which to listen to live music.
The opening band on the main stage was the Rangsit University Jazz Orchestra. This large ensemble can lay claim to being the first jazz big-band in Asia to be conducted by Maria Schneider
. The composer/arranger spent a week at Rangsit University in October '10, rehearsing her charts for a week with the orchestra before leading a concert which made a huge impression on the orchestra members. Needless to say, Schneider's music featured in the set list, a fine version of "My Lament," alongside John Coltrane
's "Traneing In" and guitarist Pat Metheny
's "First Circle." The orchestra was anchored by a strong rhythm section and there were some impressive solos, notably from fluent pianist Sopon Suwannakit, and Spanish tenor saxophonist Jose Perez who displayed measured, confident phrasing.
Anything other than a set of originals from an instructor who teaches jazz composition and arranging at Mahidol, as well as piano, would have been odd, but leader Mario Monti first recorded his own material in '97 and, based on the evidence of this performance, the Swiss pianist is clearly a composer worthy of attention. He led his sextet through five original compositions of some diversity, ranging from the post-bop energy of "Comprovisation" and the gently swinging "Cyclic" to the walking-bass driven numbers "Salavat" and "Metamorphosis." The common denominator in the compositions was the tightly woven frontline of trumpet, alto saxophone and trombone, or combinations thereof. Rustem Galiulin's glowing trumpet was framed by riffing sax and trombone and made for an attractive arrangement on a slow-paced number, while Annawin Kerdteesud's saxophone swapped roles with the trumpet, altering the texture of the arrangement nicely. Succinct solos from all were out of the top drawer and the sextet bowed out in style with a grooving, New Orleans/blues-edged number reminiscent of Herbie Hancock.
The Denny Euprasert Quintet gave a lesson in variation of pace, dynamics and ambience in an entertaining set which kicked off with a hugely energetic version of Chick Corea
's "Inner Space." Teerus Laoverapanich on saxophone, Changton Kunjara on guitar and the leader on piano all excelled in their respective solo parts. Given the high level of musicianship on display it was no surprise to learn that the quintet members have played with the likes of saxophonist Benny Golson
, guitarist Mike Stern
and bassist Chris Minh Doky
. Euprasert's finesse on the keys on the balladic "Ira" was a highlight of the set, though his rousing extended solo on the Latin-tinged closing number, with drummer Napat Piryakitsarun rising to the occasion, was equally absorbing.
The Andreas Oberg trio put a firm exclamation mark at the end of the excellent first day of TIJC '11. Opening with a lively number, which evoked the swinging blues of guitarist Grant Green
, Oberg then took a sharp left-field turn with Abba's "The Winner Takes it All." Oberg displayed jaw-dropping technique with overt lyricism. Like Bill Frisell, he is able to approach such a song without the slightest trace of irony, mining the melody and proving that a good tune is a good tune. An accelerated yet swinging version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" sounded like homage to guitarist Django Reinhardt
,, with Oberg unleashing some furiously fast playing. Bassist Kristian Lind and drummer Robert Ikiz provided outstanding support, though both shone as individual voices in their own right. Watching Oberg de-tune his top string and engage in bass discourse with Lind was enthralling; for command of his instrument Oberg draws favorable comparison with Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, though with a much more jazz-specific vocabulary.
There was a sublime trio interpretation of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard
's "Little Sunflower," and George Benson
revealed himself to be an important influence on Oberg on "Ballada para J," where Oberg accompanied his rapid, skidding lines with wordless singing. Special guest, Swedish guitarist Max Schultz joined the trio on trumpeter Nat Adderley
's "Worksong," engaging in lively, bluesy discourse with Oberg. The obvious enjoyment, excitement, and sheer musicality in their exchange fairly much summed up the concert as a whole.
With the overwhelming majority of conference goers being Thai, it was not a total surprise that some of the workshops, particularly those given by Thai musicians, were conducted in Thai and this was the case with the first two workshops of day two. Guitarist Dan Phillips, bassist Porncart Viriyapar and drummer Chanutr Techatan-Nan, otherwise known as Hong, gave fresh perspective on the inner workings of a jazz trio, and this was followed by pianist/ keyboard player Neung Jakkawal's advisory talk on life after graduation for jazz musicians. The reality, it has to be said, is that there simply aren't enough gigs in Bangkok, let alone the rest of the country, for graduates of jazz study programs to get steady work. This is a familiar story in America and most of Europe, though it usually the case that in the face of adversity, the greatest talent comes through.
When education awakens curiosity, when it engenders a new thought process and a meaningful reaction, when it serves as a catalyst for enlightenment, productivity and creativity, then it is an edifying experience, indeed. The three-hour workshop give by pianist Danilo Perez, bassist Ben Street
and drummer Adam Cruz
on the second day of TIJC was an enlightening experience, for participants and observers alike.
Recorded music from Tanzania, and Mozambique was played to make students focus on the polyrhythms at play. This was followed by recordings of Art Blakey
's The Jazz Messengers
and Herbie Hancock, to illustrate how the rhythms of jazz are descendant from traditional African rhythms. Shadowboxing in an analogy, highlighting the role of the bass drum in providing accent, Perez recalled trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
's critique of a drummer who wasn't impressing him: "That drummer, he don't hit low," Perez aped. The Panamanian pianist first made a name for himself as the youngest member of Gillespie's United Nations Orchestra at the end of the '80s, and he has much of Gillespie's infectious good humor and enthusiasm.
The relationship between the cymbal and African shakers was also demonstrated, and the audience was invited to mark various times with hand claps. As interesting as all this musicology was, the workshop took off when the three musicians brought four young students onto the stage and invited them to play a blues. Afterwards, Perez observed: "When you play this music find the window that says freedom and find your way in, find your voice the music is your story you're telling."
To promote the idea of self-expression and meaningful communication with the other players, Perez led the four studentsgrouped in a tight circle through a sung, improvised interaction, where they bounced simple ideas back and forth, all the while marking time with a walking rhythm. The sense of freedom and release of inhibition that the four participants exhibited by the end was notable, and when they returned to their respective instruments, and picked up the blues once again, there was a sense in the collective playing that one or two windows had, indeed, been found. The line between audience and stage blurred when Perez invited all the pianists bassists and drummers onto the stage to work through various ideas. It is of course impossible to know how individuals are affected by personal coaching, but it would be surprising if this workshop doesn't seriously change some of these young musicians' relationship with their instruments and help propel them towards a more personal musical expression.
Prior to the commencement of the evening's main stage program, the 16-piece Thai Tem gave a performance of Thai folk music with a contemporary sound. Traditional stringed and percussive instrumentsseveral of Chinese originfused with drums, electric bass, guitar and keyboards in a mellow and melodious performance fronted by vocalists Pattaraporn Sangsamang and Jongsirin Saengwiru. In the future, it is likely that Thai jazz will experiment with its indigenous folk forms and the combination of timbres, rhythms and melodies could make for a fascinating fusion. A great example of the possibilities of fusing traditional Asia music with jazz can be heard on Taiwanese band Sizhukong's excellent recording Paper Eagle
(Sizhukong, 2009) and it could be of interest to Thai jazz students interested in exploring their own musical traditions. For the time being however, Thai jazz draws its inspiration almost exclusively from the American tradition.
One of Thailand's premier organists/keyboard players, Neung Jakkawal, had the honor of starting the second day's main stage program. Jakkawal brought a modernist touch to the TIJC with his eclectic mixture of keyboard fusion virtuosity, funk and Latin grooves. The rhythm section of bassist Patcharapong Ruenghirunwang and drummer Kridsana Putpring proved to be versatile and dynamic in their support. Guitarist Nuttapun Seangsiangfa took a couple of searching solos, particularly on a powerful Latin-jazz number and the quintet became a sextet when Steve Cannon lent his muscular, clear trumpet voice to the mix. One rather vapid vocal number seemed out of place in an otherwise bustling set, but was salvaged to a degree by a wonderful piano break from the leader.
Three guitarists on one stage sounds like a recipe for excess, but the watchword for the Silapkorn University Faculty Jazz Ensemble was balance, and it gave an assured and often exhilarating performance. Playing as a quintet, a sextet or as the full nonet, the arrangements allowed for diversity of textures: on one track, guitar and tenor saxophone were pitched together; on another, soprano and tenor sax dovetailed. Dan Phillips laid down a gritty guitar vamp, over which saxophone soared on his excellent composition, "No Exit, No Return," and Hong's deceptively light yet buoyant touch on drums and Pornchart Viriyapark's probing bass provided both anchor and spring for the ensemble. Phillips is a unique voice and his utterly contemporary sounding solo was an admirable display of musicality trumping virtuosity, though his chops are considerable. Established musicians and dedicated jazz instructors all, the individual members of the ensemble inherently understand the need to submit to the collective sound and the result was a coherent and stirring performance.
The guitar is the instrument of choice in Thailand, as witnessed by a total of nine out of fourteen entrants to the Solo Competition
who played guitar. Students of guitar had packed Kurt Rosenwinkel's workshop earlier in the day, and there was a buzz of anticipation about his headlining concert. This was Rosenwinkel's Standards Trio, though the selection of material differed considerably from Reflections
(Wommusic, 2009). Students sitting in front of the low stage were able to see Rosenwinkel's chord improvisations up close, supporting the melody of Thelonious Monk
's "Ruby My Dear" and Jaki Byard
's "Mrs. Parker of K.C." The rhythmic accompaniment of bassist Revis and drummer Stranahan was equally compelling. Revis held things down unselfishly, though he blossomed on a beguiling solo of great lyricism on the Jack Segal/Fisher number Marvin "When Sunny Gets Blue." Stranahan's stick work was impressive, too, whether applying deft brushes or in more animated mode, as on Coltrane's rapid-fire "26:2."
Rosenwinkel's acute rhythmic drive and fluid runs brought verve to pianist John Lewis
' "Milestones," though his exquisitely light touch and deep feel for the lyricism at the core of pianist Bill Evan
's "Turn out The Stars" was wonderful. With a thoroughly post-modern sound and such obvious empathy for the song writing depth of jazz masters of years gone by, Rosenwinkel is on fertile ground which he could harvest for many years to come without ever sounding dated or retro.
The workshops on the third day offered a talk by the Rangsit University Faculty on the history of jazz education and an analysis of jazz schools as well as advise on preparation for post-graduate studies. The talk was held in Thai. What was conspicuously absent as a theme at the TIJC, though it came up as a point of discussion with numerous musicians over the course of the three-day event was the matter of the prospects for graduating jazz musicians to be able to perform in Bangkok or beyond. Pratak Faisupagarn, a lifelong jazz advocate, is blunt in his appraisal of employment opportunities: "It is difficult to find gigs. Students here have a great opportunity to learn, especially from the workshops with Perez and Rosenwinkel, but I don't know where they can all play. There aren't many venues." Khun Faisupagarn, who teaches harmonics and ear training at the Supagarn School of Music he founded, is the author three books on jazz, including one on the history of important women in jazz and he was the recipient of the TIJC Lifetime Achievement Award
Khun Faisupagarn remembers listing to the Voice of America, and recalls when Bangkok hosted the Count Basie
Orchestra for a week, saxophonist Stan Getz
passed through, with young pianist Jan Johansson
in his band, and vibraphonist Gary Burton
played in the City of Angels, too. Khun Faisupagarn studied guitar at Beklee in the early '80s, and has presented jazz on radio and television as well as in newspapers, but after decades immersed in the music as practitioner and educator he acknowledges an important change in the music: "Jazz is not just American music anymore," he says. "Jazz is freedom. It's whatever you want to say. It's true that its roots are American but it can happen anywhere in the world."
Khun Faisupagarn's observation made sense, considering the undeniable expansion in the geographical territory that jazz inhabits and the degree of regionalization of its sound (think Scandinavia, the UK, Italy etc.), and it was precisely this question of regional authorship that lay at the heart of the workshop, "Developing the Australian Jazz Real Book," by guitarist Tim Nikolsky. Australia has a large number of jazz festivals, a strong trad jazz movement and an impressive number of contemporary jazz musicians of great talent. Yet Nikolsky, gigging in and around Melbourne, became aware of the significant number of Australian-penned compositions which nevertheless, are submerged to a large degree by the standard American jazz Real Books
Nikolsky pointed out: "Influences from overseas can be good, but also not so good." It is perhaps worth noting that some of the most interesting, most passionately played music at TIJC were original compositions. Why was nobodyother than the authorplaying these Australian compositions, Nikolsky asked himself. He concluded that the reason for this was simply the ready availability of the American jazz Real Books
. As his Ph.D, project Nikolsky set out to see if there was support for the idea of an Australian jazz Real Book
, and conducted a nationwide survey of jazz musicians who gave their overwhelming support to the idea. Nikolsky asked 200 jazz musicians to recommend tunes for inclusion in an eventual Real Book
, and he was inundated with suggestions covering most of the history of jazz in Australia; enough for three Real Books
, in fact. Nikolsky transcribed 300 compositions, and the 500-page Australian Jazz Real Book
is hopefully going to go to print in the near future. It will be fascinating to see how such a Real Book
impacts on the Australian jazz scene.
Jazz in Thailand is, by comparison, relatively nascent and musicians naturally gravitate towards the American tradition. It is, however, as jazz educator Pratka Faisupagarn pointed out, a very good place to start, and the Mahidol University Students Jazz Ensemblethe first of the two bands that played on the Oval stage at midday drew its material from American jazz masters. A fairly perfunctory "Take the 'A' Train" got things off to a slow start, but the eight-piece warmed up quickly and played with greater energy on pianist McCoy Tyner
's "Passion Dance," with trumpeter Sarit Tanpensuk particularly impressive. The eternal crowd pleaser, "Mo Better Blues," closed the short set, with Khun Tanpensuk taking another colorful solo. The Pichayan Taptin Quartet was making its live debut at the TIJC though Khun Taptin is a well-known saxophonist around Bangkok. A strong rendition of John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice" was followed by two originals, with "Confused Era" impressing for its arrangement and the band's execution, with the leader unfurling a confident solo.
The final workshop of TIJC '11 was conducted by Andreas Oberg, and the guitarist's dazzling technique drew enthusiastic applause from the audience. More significantly, Oberg demonstrated practice exercises designed to help free students up from memorizing patterns. He told students to listen to other instruments like saxophone and piano: "I get a lot of ideas from other instruments," he explained. Oberg also detailed ways to practice fast tempos in a relaxed way and encouraged students not to fear missing notes and to "jump in at the deep end." To close the workshop, and to the delight of those present, Oberg led his trio through a lightning-fast version of Ray Noble's "Cherokee," popularized by saxophonist Charlie Parker
in the '40s.
The Mahidol University Jazz orchestra opened the evening program and its 23 members served up a set which alternated between vibrant, punchy attack and graceful swing. John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" was indicative of the orchestra's ambitions and was negotiated in style, ably guided by director Anauin Kerdteesud. Chick Corea's "Spain" was given something of a shakeup with the conga playing of Teeraboon Paisarn buoying the familiar theme and the synth and Nord C3 organ coloring the music with a '70s texture. More contemporary fare followed with Maria Schneider's "Handgliding," and English bassist/bandleader Dave Holland
's "Upswing" providing the orchestra with plenty of opportunity to stretch the fourteen horns. On the former, trumpeter Trin Suebpa took a fluent, lyrical solo, though it was the ensemble voice as a whole which impressed most.
Pop band ETC was the event's only concession to overtly commercial music, and it was very popular with the younger section of the audience. One pop band in a sea of authentic jazz bands hardly constitutes a dilution of the program, but the organizers will probably not want to go the way of the more commercial jazz festivals in Thailand, which stage sparing doses of real jazz, if they wish the TIJC to flourish as one of the most important jazz events in the Thai and regional calendar.
The Pomelo Town-so-named for the abundance of pomelos which mark the landscape of this areaprovided one of the highlights of the three days. The quartet of teachers from Mahidol University's jazz department was augmented by a three-piece section of trumpet, tenor saxophone and trombone, in order to premier an ambitious four-part "Tales from Pomelo Town." Composed by pianist Darin Pantoomkomol, the fifty-minute suite contained beautiful brass arrangements, and outstanding soloing from the pianist, alto saxophonist Krit Buranavittayawut , and trumpeter Sarit Tanpensuk.. The distinctive parts corresponded to the imaginations of the quartet member, and painted an impressionistic canvas of contrasting moods, rather than related, connecting themes.
Driving and reflective, in turn, swinging and then melancholic, the music was characterized by a strong melodic thread and a very organic rise and fall of tension. Drummer Kom Wongsawat and bassist Noppadol Tirataradol had to be on their toes for the duration, but were up to the task; Wongsawat's solo improvisation was intuitive and refreshingly unflashy. The exhilarating duet between piano and alto in the final section grew from appoint of near silence to eventual animated discourse, with Khun Buranavittayawut emitting ever more urgent exclamations from his alto, over Khun Pantoomkomol's rumbling piano. The final section united all seven voices in an elegant, celebratory finale. The Pomelo Town has two CDs to its name, and hopefully this most impressive modern jazz suitewhich will surely be a benchmark for Thai jazz composers for years to comewill be an addition to its discography.
Danilo Perez greeted the Thai audience with a sing-song: "Sabai-dee-mai?" (How are you?), and the crowd returned as one: "Sabaidee!" (Just fine!) This exchange was repeated several times before Perez translated the dialogue to his piano keys which thrilled the packed arena, launching into the classically tinged, Bach-inspired opening of "Daniela's Chronicles." Drummer Adam Cruz played shaker with one hand and drum stick in the other, as the lovely piano motif gradually unfurled into a dynamic trio statement. The punchy Latin rhythms of "Galactic Panama" were followed by "Historia de un Amor," which featured thrilling trio interplay. In the workshop the previous day Perez had told the audience that he didn't know what was going to happen in the trio's concert, and it was no idle boast; the pianist's intense, extended improvisation left drummer Cruz waiting for the right moment to enter, and several times he seemed poised to pounce only to hold back. When he finally did slide in, backed up by the ever-alert Ben Street on bass, the composition lifted off. A heady, almost ferocious dialogue ensued between piano and drums, with Perez eventually sitting back on an extended vamp, while Cruz embarked on an adrenalin-pumping solo which reached every part of his kit.
The delicate ballad, "Irremediablemente Solo," served to underscore Perez's versatility. He is an exceptional balladeer possessed of exquisite touch and nuance. Cruz on brushes and Street's understated though weaving bass provided pillowy support on a beautiful trio performance. The fires were stoked once again on the set closing encore and title track of Perez's outstanding CD Providencia
(Mack Avenue Records, 2010). The challenging composition featured more fireworks from the trio, though the tune's melody was never sacrificed.
As soon as the concert finished, the extremely lyrical Thai national anthem came over the speakers and the audience rose as one in salute to their King, whose presence in the grounds of the main stage was visible in the form of a statue of his saxophone. Perez seemed momentarily taken aback by this customary show of respect, but the three musicians joined the audience in this tribute before taking leave of the stage.
The TIJC was a great success in every respect. Three days of excellent music were enjoyed by several thousand jazz fans and the organizers' aims to educate, inspire and entertain were more than met. The audience in attendance at both the auditorium workshops and at the main stage performances filled the spaces to near full capacity, testament to how far the TIJC has come in just three editions. There was still some room to roll out a mat and sit on the grass but you'd better get there early next year if you don't want to be disappointed.