Sunday November 11, 2012
Jazz with a twist
By DARYL GOH
The Penang Island Jazz Festival 2012 continues to raise the bar in terms of music programming.
IN his assessment of the Penang Island Jazz Festival last year, renowned Canadian jazz critic John Kelman (also managing editor of music website allaboutjazz.com) said, “The Penang Island Jazz Festival could, of course, exist strictly as an event of appealing live performances from a variety of artistes, but by carefully stretching the ears of its fan base, its doing more.”
Kelman was spot on and the upcoming outdoor Penang Island Jazz Festival 2012 (PIJF), set to take place at the Bayview Beach Resort, Batu Ferringhi in Penang from Dec 1 to 2, is aiming to continue the festival’s groundbreaking diversity.
“The programming at PIJF has always been open-minded. It’s about adventurous music programming anchored by the spirit of jazz. The festival, if you have been following through the years, has a Penang heartbeat – that’s important in terms of identity. We have connected with local fans and the homegrown jazz community. At the same time, we cannot ignore the international pulse of the jazz scene,” said Paul Augustin, the PIJF festival director, as he thumbed through the artiste list for the ninth edition of PIJF.
“The festival itself has evolved through the years and the challenging part now is to give the masses a taste of what is happening in contemporary jazz festival circles,” he added.
If Lana Del Ray, Rufus Wainwright, Bobby Womack and Chris Cornell can play at this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, while reggae legend Niney The Observer and hip-hop star MF Doom and the Robert Glasper Experiment are set to appear at this month’s London Jazz Festival, then it’s obvious that the PIJF can push ahead with eye-catching acts to suit its budget.
Just one look at the main stage – Jazz By The Beach – programming at PIJF and you will find several curveballs in this year’s lineup.
Firstly, jazz singer and champion female beatboxer Butterscotch, 27, is a fresh face set to bring a twist to the event. She is the likeliest performer to put Twitterjaya folks in a frenzy at the festival.
For someone who has toured with the Mike Patton-fronted avant rock band Peeping Tom, done sessions for Mike Patton and Dan The Automator’s new outfit Crudo, while also collaborating with the SMV project (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten), and George Benson a few years ago, you can expect Butterscotch to be spreading some genre-blurring music on stage.
The cutting edge of European jazz will also be present with Norwegian jazz duo Albatrosh – Eyolf Dale (piano) and André Roligheten (saxophone). In terms of credentials, Albatrosh is a product of the influential Rune Grammofon imprint, which already signifies free-flow improvisation and dynamic musical interplay (with added electronics).
Currently breaking new ground in Britain and United States, the Albatrosh story has been going from strength to strength. Back in its homeland, the duo’s past two albums Mystery Orchestra With Grenager & Tafjord (2010) and Yonkers (2011) have lodged themselves in the upper reaches of the annual best Norwegian jazz record charts.
Where rare groove tradition is concerned, veteran soul singer Madeline Bell – an American transplanted to the British mod scene of the 1960s – is another name to pique the interest of fans. The 70-year-old singer, who flourished in a rich career of Northern soul hit singles, endless session work (John Lennon to Elton John), and later fame with the 1970s group Blue Mink, is still active on the European jazz touring scene. With jazz repertoire in mind, Bell will be backed by The Hans Vroomans Trio in Penang.
Hailing from Ireland is The Deans, a contemporary folk rock outfit, which has carved a niche for itself in the European festival rounds (with a spot at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 2009) and gradually worked itself into the festival circuit in the United States. Steeped in giddy, swashbuckling acoustic-based folk charm and driven by sheer musical virtuosity, The Deans is definitely a ball of energy waiting to be unleashed at PIJF.
Despite being known for his smooth jazz credentials, British jazz guitarist Martin Taylor has stood out with an array of recordings to appease a wide-ranging fan base. He is a rare breed with his technical prowess and genuine artistic spirit tied to the long tradition of jazz. Like his heroes – the legendary violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt – Taylor can stir the emotions on stage.
Jazz music, in a more conventional sense, will also be represented by TheArtOfFusion (Germany/Europe), Mezzotono (Italy), Francesca Han Trio (South Korea), Kekko Fornarelli Trio featuring Ruso Sala (Italy/Spain) and Estudiantina Ensemble (Cuba). Local flavour is also not to be missed with husband/wife jazz duo Bittersweet and Elvira Arul And The Acoustic Souls.
From Latin jazz, fusion, Afrobeat, piano jazz and vocal jazz, there is enough diversity and musical balance on the main stage to ensure that the PIJF hits all the right spots.
Ticket entry for the Jazz By The Beach programme (Dec 1-2) at Bayview Beach Resort, Batu Ferringhi, Penang is RM68 (per night). Dec 1 line-up: Bittersweet, Albatrosh, Mezzotono, Madeline Bell & Hans Vroomans Trio, The Deans and TheArtOfFusion. Dec 2: Elvira Arul & Acoustic Souls, Francesca Han Trio, Martin Taylor, Butterscotch, Kekko Fornarelli Trio featuring Ruso Sala and Estudiantina Ensemble. For ticketing details, visit ticketpro.com.my or penangjazz.com. Admission is free for other PIJF activities – seminars, workshops and fringe gigs.