Sunday March 17, 2013
A jazzy jamboree
By REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
Jazz lovers can look forward to four days of great music at the second KL International Jazz Festival next month.
ONE of the country’s biggest jazz festivals is set to take place next month and leading the line-up of artistes are contemporary jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour and crossover genre pianist Keiko Matsuia.
The second KL International Jazz Festival (KLIJF) is set to kick up a storm with 35 international and 65 local artistes who will grace the stages at the grounds of the University of Malaya (UM) from April 27-30. Venues include Dewan Tunku Chancellor, Experimental Theatre and four outdoor stages that will be erected around the area.
KLIJF chairman and co-founder, Maizon Omar, has worked tirelessly with her team to organise the event and is thrilled that things are shaping up well.
“Jazz is picking up in Malaysia and you see a lot of little gigs everywhere at shopping complexes and parks. I’m convinced that jazz will go down well with our people – it’s just a matter of time. Look at Japan. Jazz is highly appreciated there and they were like us 50 years ago,” she said at a press conference here last week.
UM, which already has a music school, will soon be establishing a jazz school and this should see a surge in interest in the genre.
“Our radio stations don’t play jazz because they think it’s for old people and boring,” lamented Maizon.
“Lots of people think jazz is very 1960s,” added KLIJF managing director and co-founder Rodin Kumar. “The music has evolved and people can easily get into it. It’ll take some time but it’ll get there.
Jazz festivals all over the world attract very large audiences because of its appeal to a wide range of jazz, blues, funk, soul and classic rock audiences. The ambience at jazz festivals is very different from a closed-door, single jazz concert. That is why jazz festivals in major cities continue to grow and the KLIJF is beginning to make its mark as a world class jazz festival.”
The festival will commence with a 10km KLIJF Earth Day Run on April 21 at UM and a hike up Gunung Nuang in Ulu Langat, Selangor. Interested participants can opt to register for either one event as part of the festival’s intention to promote good health.
Aficionados have often questioned why Malaysia cannot emulate the Java Jazz Festival, which takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia, annually.
“We are latecomers. We cannot just duplicate another jazz festival. We are the only jazz festival that starts with a Earth Day run to take care of the health of the community and the environment,” said Rodin.
“A lot of the artistes we spoke to have said they are keen to come here and play, but have not had the opportunity yet.”
Last year’s festival saw the likes of the legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal and saxophonist David Sanborn strutting their stuff.
He said, “We don’t have the legends anymore because they’ve passed on. And it’s not possible to bring Ahmad Jamal again because he’s 83. Still, every jazz musician has a little bit of legacy in them because they’ve been influenced by some of the legends.”
Besides Ritenour and Matsuia, the other artistes performing this year include Chuck Loeb, Nicole Henry, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Jessy J, Helen Sung Quartet, Lucky Octavian, Club Des Belugas, Jeremy Monteiro, John Thomas & The Phunk Mob Experience, Steve Thornton and UM Big Band.
There will be every style of jazz music thrown in at the event: contemporary jazz, smooth jazz, mainstream jazz, jazz rock, progressive jazz, Latin jazz, blues, electro swing ... the list is exhaustive.
Henry, who is touted as “the vocal love-child of Whitney Houston and Sarah Vaughan”, has firmly established herself as one of the most acclaimed entertainers in jazz. Her powerfully expressive voice and her soulful, sophisticated and uplifting energy has earned her three acclaimed jazz albums.
Mahantappa has been named alto saxophonist of the year in Downbeat’s 2011 and 2012 International Critics Poll and for four years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association (2009-2012). The Italian born, Canadian raised, US-residing Indian musician mixes various genres of music (predominantly Indian) and combines them with the language of jazz to create new form, which is still recognisably jazz.
A regional artiste who is making headlines is Indonesian vocalist Octavian, who released his debut album Lucky Sings Broery, a collection of Broery Marantika’s songs, in 2010. More than 7,000 copies have already been sold in Malaysia. His second album is expected to be out next month and Octavian will sings a few numbers from this album.
To further pump up the event, there will also be master classes and workshops, jazz movie screenings, art exhibitions by top Malaysian artistes, hot air balloon rides, food and craft for sale. In addition, there will be an open-mic stage to showcase the talents of young and upcoming talents.
More than 4,000 tickets for the KLIJF have already been sold and the organisers hope to sell at least 10,000 tickets. Maizon is confident that a percentage of the audience will be foreigners as Malaysia Airline is promoting the festival as a vacation package.
“Our long term intention is to get locals to perform in other jazz festivals around the world,” said Rodin.