Taipei Jazz Festival swings into action
By Yali Chen
Taipei Jazz Festival is slated to kick off July 17 at the Daan Forest Park Amphitheater in Taipei, entertaining music lovers from the capital city with a world-class lineup of jazz musicians. On the weekend, a total of nine free concerts will be held by more than twenty artists from many countries such as Taiwan, the U.S., Honduras, the U.K., and Italy.
Summer seems to be a great season for listening to improvised music in Taiwan. As part of the trend, the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) stages a jazz festival in Taipei every summer. In its 9th year, the festival has been a much-anticipated gig among jazz aficionados since 2007. Those who rave about jazz can swing their bodies while listening to the live music. All outdoor concerts are free.
This year's event is set to open with Hibriduz jazz combo's live performance, followed by Taiwan's music group – Philharmonia Moments Musicaux.
In 2004, Hibriduz jazz combo was founded in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Its members come from different countries and include trumpeter Brian Fagoagas, alto saxophonist Esau Velasquez, drummer Jonathan Alarcon, pianist Jose Velasquez, bassist Isaac Bustillo, tenor saxophonist Kevin Fagoagas, pianist Oscar Fagoagas, and guitarist Orlyn Andino.
This year, the Tegucigalpa-based combo released an album, titled "Hibriduz Latin Jazz Show." On their album, the first piece "Michel Camilo Caribbean" has been heard at many international concerts.
Those who love Latin jazz can enjoy the Tegucigalpa-based band's live performance in Taipei on July 17, and then comes Taiwan's Philharmonia Moments Musicaux (PMM), which gives their performance by combining classical music and jazz.
Founded in February 1998 by young Taiwanese violinist and conductor Chiang Ching-po, the Taipei-based PMM was an amateur orchestra with a host of outstanding young musicians who had received classical music education in Taiwan and overseas.
Their repertoire ranges from baroque music to the latest contemporary creations. The PMM has also appeared on stage with local and international talented artists, such as Uygur ethnic soprano Dilber Yunus, American pianist Robert Levin, Taiwanese-American pianist Helen Huang, Taiwan-born pianist Meng-chieh Liu, violinist Vesselin Paraschkevov, and American viola player Kim Kashkashian, as well as David Juritz, leader of the London-based Mozart players.
In 2001, Juilliard Music School selected the PMM album "Revolution" as one of its requirements. Former Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster Toru Yasunaga also praised the Taipei-based orchestra, stating that he was "very glad to know that even now there is such a group who could play music with all their heart and with a clear mind."
A series of live performances on the second day of this year's festival in Taipei will be given by the NTU Riot Jazz Orchestra from Taiwan, American jazz pianist Andy Jaffe, American jazz horn player and composer John Clark, and the Taipei-based Interestring Quartet.
Founded in 2009, the NTU Riot Jazz Orchestra is comprised of college students and alumni who both love jazz. Under the direction of local saxophonist Shawna Yang, the young group has appeared in a wide range of arts events including Taichung Jazz Festival between 2010 and 2014, Chiayi City International Band Festival in 2013, and Taipei Tap Festival in 2014.
An active jazz composer, performer and recording artist, Andy Jaffe has been a leader in jazz pedagogy for over thirty years. His rich teaching experiences came from the Berklee College of Music (1977-81); the graduate program in Afro-American music and jazz for University of Massachusetts Amherst (1994-98); the Institut Musical de formation Professionelle in Nimes, France (1984); Amherst College (1987-99); Tufts University (1992-93); Smith College (1997-99); the Tainan National University of the Arts in southern Taiwan (2009); and Williams College (since 1988).
He has also appeared frequently as a guest lecturer, artist and conductor at Harvard University, Rutgers University, Brown University, and the University of Maine in the U.S. His international lectures and performances included many colleges in overseas countries, such as the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the DoDD School System in Germany, and the Beijing Midi School in China, as well as Taiwan's Soochow University, Taiwan Normal University, Sun Yat Sen University, and Taipei National University of the Arts.
A short list of his former students includes Marsalis, Roney, Smith, Steve Vai, Stefan Crump, Darryl Harper, and Williams College graduates Doug Boyce, Chris Lightcap, Brian Coughlin, and Wang Leehom.
American horn player, arranger and composer John Clark has performed around the world with a wide variety of musicians in a great range of musical arenas: jazz, pop, Broadway, classical, and studio work.
Clark studied horn, composition and improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music, establishing his jazz credentials with a series of recordings with his own band – the most recent Being I Will on the Postcards label, nominated for Record of the Year by the National Association of Independent Record Dealers. In 1986, he won the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Award for Most Valuable Player in the Recording Field.
Three Taiwanese jazz bands and two international jazz artists are scheduled to appear on stage on the final day of this year's festival in Taipei. They are the Taipei-based Sizhukong combo, Mission Formosa Jazz Quartet, and Paige Su & the Flying Monkeys, as well as Italian saxophonist Max Ionata and British-American drummer Mark Taylor.
A pianist, composer and arranger, Peng Yu-wen serves as the music director of the Sizhukong combo, which integrates Chinese classical music into jazz. Other band members include erhu player Alex Wu; Huang Chih-ping, who plays dizi (a Chinese flute) and xiao (a Chinese recorder); and Chen Chih-ling, who plays ruan (a Chinese lute) and liuqin (a four-stringed Chinese mandolin with a pear-shaped body).
Highlights of this year's jazz festival in Taipei will be shown on Sunday night because Max Ionata and Mark Taylor are set to perform together on stage.
Born in 1972, Ionata made his late debut after he moved to Rome in 2005. His tenor saxophone playing is accomplished and refreshingly unique. Even though Ionata is not a familiar name in international jazz circles, he is very well-known in his native country thanks to Matteo Pagano, the owner and proprietor of Via Veneto Jazz. Ionata's two recent CDs for that label offered his marvelous music and helped him gain recognition from jazz critics and audience at home and abroad.
Born in 1962 in London, Taylor began teaching himself to play drums at the age of five, and eleven years later became a professional musician. Despite his youth, he has become a much sought-after drummer in both the U.K. and Europe. He has also been a regular guest on BBC radio and television shows.
In 1996, encouraged by Lew Tabackin and Toshiko Akiyoshi, Taylor relocated to the U.S., settling in New York City where he joined the Toshiko Akiyoshi – Lew Tabackin Big Band and played with many other noted artists including George Coleman, Monty Alexander and Mose Allison.
Taylor's recording schedule became very busy throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with sessions in the U.K. and U.S. under many leaders, such as Kenny Barron, Spike Robinson, Herb Geller, and Chris Flory. His playing not only spans the mainstream, bop and post-bop strands of jazz, but also displays his superb technical skills. Until now, Taylor has still been active in the jazz circles of New York City and London, and performs on his overseas concert tours.