The summer jazz season is coming to a crescendo. Last week saw a coupling of concerts in Da-an Forest Park as part of the Taipei International Jazz Festival, and now the 2006 Chrysler and ICRT Jazz Competition is scheduled to have its opening notes played this evening at Cosmopolitan Grill in Ximending.
This is the second year for the event, which pits the cream of local jazz crews against one another for a total of NT$140,000 in prize money. Organizers at ICRT said they had 19 groups vie for one of competition's 10 slots, twice the number that applied for last year's inaugural event. Four of the outfits have been formed in the past year. A panel of judges screened and voted on which 10 bands would go head-to-note.
As tonight is the competition's preliminary round, it's the only night audiences will have a chance to hear all 10 bands: Skyline, Jazzaholix, Vis-a-vis, Jazz Vibrations, Off Quartet, Riddim Outlaw & Family and newcomers Polygons, Four of a Kind, Melody Slaves and United Jazz Band. Each group will play two songs.
The musicians are from all points of the musical map, including the US and Canada, Japan and of course Taiwan. The soundscape they'll create will range from swing and bossa nova to bop, hard bop, blues and even some funk and rock infusions. But style aside, contestants will all be judged on the same criteria, with equal consideration given to technical skill, swing, cohesiveness and local flavor (台風).
This last category is of particular interest to some aficionados who are keen to see the local jazz scene find a more popular footing. To do so, they say, will require a kind of “localization” of the sound that has yet to happen in a scene that relies largely on jazz standards.
“You have to create a new environment for yourself,” said Hsien Chi-pin (謝啟彬), an instructor at Shih Chien University's department of music and one of the organizers of the Taipei International Jazz Festival. “I want my students to first know the basics, know the technique, but then make the music their own by putting their own life experience into it.”
Deciding who's doing the best job at that will fall to a panel of judges, including the host of ICRT's Sunday night Jazz Flavors program, Bill Thissen. “Of course I'll be listening for technical ability,” he said. “But I'm also interested in whether or not they can improvise. Is it a studied performance of the music or a real exhibition of jazz? Does it swing?”
At the end of the night, the five bands that can “swing” the best will move onto the finals, to be held Saturday, Aug. 19, also at Cosmopolitan Grill. The winning group that night will take home NT$100,000. Second- and third-place winners will receive NT$30,000 and NT$10,000 respectively.
The Cosmopolitan Bar and Grill is located at 77 Wuchang St Sec 2, Taipei (台北市武昌街二段77號7樓 – 誠品武昌店7樓) and can be reached by calling 02 2381-2060. The competition gets underway at 6:30pm. The good seats are taken, but there's standing room at the back. Minimum charge is NT$300.