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Stars come to play at Taipei Jazz Festival

By Yali Chen

From left to right, saxophonist Rosario Giuliani, trombonist Alan Ferber of the U.S., guitarist Joachim Schoenecker of Germany, double bassist Bart De Nolf of Belgium, and percussionist Gilad Dobrecky of Israel perform at a press conference on July 17th in Taipei.Taipei Jazz Festival kicked off July 19 at the Daan Forest Park Amphitheater in Taipei, entertaining music lovers from Taiwan and overseas with a world-class lineup of jazz musicians. On the weekend, a total of seven free concerts were given by twenty-two artists from eight countries such as Taiwan, the U.S., Canada, Israel, Belgium, Italy, Germany, and South Africa.

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 every summer in Taipei. Those who rave about jazz can swing their bodies while listening to the live music. All outdoor concerts are free.

This year the jazz festival opened with live performances by two of Taiwan's music groups, One Piece and Our Piano Trio.

Top jazz musicians appearing at the two-day event included trombonist Alan Ferber of the U.S., percussionist Gilad Dobrecky of Israel, trumpeter David Smith of Canada, singer Amanda Tiffin of South Africa, saxophonist John Ruocco of the U.S., saxophonist Rosario Giuliani of Italy, drummer Mimi Verderame of Italy, double bassist Bart De Nolf of Belgium, and guitarist Joachim Schoenecker of Germany. Two big names – Alan Ferber and Gilad Dobrecky – performed a solo on stage during the jazz party. Canadian-born trumpet master David Smith also played a set of well-known pieces with Taiwan's Tijepa Jazz Groove Band.

Apart from the international jazz masters, local musicians such as moon guitar legend Wu Teng-jung from Pingtung County and the Clockfish Trio also took part in the Taipei's jazz party. Wu appeared on stage with Taipei-based Chipin and Kaiya's Jazz, leaving local audiences enchanted by their folk combo performance.

Trumpeter David Smith of Canada performs at a press conference on July 17th in Taipei. (Photo by Yali Chen)"Now in its 8th year, the festival is regarded as a must-attend event," said jazz violinist Hsieh Chi-pin, who has organized the festival since 2007. "Music has no boundaries. The two-night party on July 19th and 20th acts as a stage for local young musicians to present their performing skills and to exchange ideas with world-renowned jazz players."

The 2014 jazz festival features a wide variety of subgenres: traditional jazz of the early 1910s, swing from the 1930s and 1940s, Latin jazz from the mid 1950s to 1960s, fusion jazz of the 1970s, funk rock from the late 1960s to the mid 2000s, and modern jazz, Hsieh added.

Alan Ferber, world-renowned jazz trombonist and composer, was recognized as one of the leading trombonists of his generation in the 2010 International Critics' Poll and Readers' Poll, conducted by Down Beat Magazine. This was a rare double honor for a musician in his mid-thirties.

Shining as a bandleader, Ferber has also released five albums, all of which blur traditional boundaries through an intriguing mix of influences. The Wall Street Journal affectionately describes his music as "somehow both old school and cutting edge."

Ferber's newest recording "March Sublime" features stunning new music for big band and has been nominated for a 2014 Grammy award in the "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album" category.

The New York City-based trombonist has closely worked with Esperanza Spalding, Charlie Hunter, Sufjan Stevens, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Peter Gabriel, Toshiko Akiyoshi, The National, Harry Connick Jr., Lee Konitz, Dr. Dre, Kenny Wheeler, John Hollenbeck, Don Byron, and They Might Be Giants.

As an educator, he is currently an adjunct professor of jazz trombone and composition at New York University's Steinhardt School, Johns Hopkins University's Peabody Conservatory, and Montclair State University's John J. Cali School of Music.

Israel-born percussionist and composer Gilad Dobrecky began performing professionally at the age of 7. His musical upbringing started with classical music, eventually leading to a performance with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta.

From left to right, singer Amanda Tiffin of South Africa, double bassist Lin Hou-jin of Taiwan, and saxophonist-clarinetist John Ruocco of the U.S. perform at a press conference on July 17th in Taipei. (Photo by Yali Chen)Dobrecky's performance and compositional styles draw on a diverse range of musical influences, including Middle Eastern, North African, West African, Brazilian, classical, and jazz. For the past few years, the artist has been playing and touring with legendary jazz singer Mark Murphy, great bassist Santi DeBriano, and violin star Regina Carter.

Known for his classical and jazz style of drumming, Dobrecky has been considered one of the world's top 12 percussionists by Jazziz magazine. He always uses his percussion instruments and local drums to produce interesting rhythms and spontaneous compositions that delight both young and old people around the world.

David Smith is a Canadian-born trumpeter currently residing in New York City. He studied and began his professional career in Toronto, but in 2000 relocated to New York City with a study grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

While the roots of his music are in classic jazz, Smith combines elements of classical harmony and counterpoint, resulting in a very original compositional style. His debut album as a leader, "Circumstance," released in October 2006 on the Fresh Sound New Talent label, features his original compositions and an outstanding quintet, which includes Seamus Blake on tenor, Nate Radley on guitar, David Ephross on bass, and the ubiquitous Mark Ferber on drums. In 2010, he released his second album "Anticipation" with the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records label, featuring Kenji Omae on tenor, Nate Radley on guitar, Gary Wang on bass and Greg Ritchie on drums.

In addition to his independent releases, Smith also acts as a sideman on over thirty recordings with Columbia Records, EMI, Motown, Fresh Sound New Talent, Steeplechase, Interplay Records and several smaller labels.

Singer-pianist Amanda Tiffin grew up in Zimbabwe, studying classical piano from a young age and graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1999 with a master's degree in jazz composition and vocal performance. She has gone on to become one of Cape Town's best-loved vocalist-pianists and a respected composer-arranger.

Tiffin has performed extensively in South Africa in numerous jazz venues, concert halls and festivals, and also appeared in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The versatile artist not only tours regularly as a jazz singer in Asia, but also belongs to a new crop of jazz artists: musicians who are not only passionate and ambitious about their music, but who go the extra mile to polish their talent through formal training.

Moon guitar legend Wu Teng-jung from Pingtung County takes part in the 2014 Taipei Jazz Festival. (Photo courtesy of Taipei International Jazz Education & Promotion Association)Saxophonist-clarinetist John Ruocco, born in 1952 in New Haven, Connecticut, has been living and working in Europe since 1979. While living in Belgium for almost ten years, he played with numerous Belgian jazz musicians such as Bert Joris, Charles Loos, Michel Herr, Act Big Band, Chris Joris, Phillipe Aerts, the BRT Big Band, and Bruno Castellucci. He has also performed and recorded with many artists, including Joey Baron, Kenny Werner, John Abercrombie, Billy Hart, Dino Saluzzi, and Barry Harris. Moreover, he has been a member of the Peter Herbolzheimer Big Band for more than two decades.

Ruocco gave concerts at festivals in Berlin, Middelheim, Brussels, Oostende, Gouvy, Belga, Brosella and Cape Town. He also made regular TV and radio appearances with the Belgian National Radio Orchestra in Belgium, Germany and France. In addition, he toured through Zaire with support from the Belgian Ministry of Culture in 1983.

His dedication, expression and discipline have been a source of inspiration for a new generation of saxophonists. The saxophonist-clarinetist is currently teaching at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.

Double bassist Bart de Nolf graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Ghent and is one of the best bassists in Belgium. Since 1998, he has taught at the jazz music department in the Royal Conservatories of Ghent and Brussels.