Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 14 News List

The battle of jazz bands, and jazz brands, is to be settled once and for all

By David Momphard  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Jazzaholix played it safe during the preliminary round of the 2006 Chrysler and ICRT Jazz Competition.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ICRT

The last notes of the 2006 Chrysler and ICRT Jazz Competition will be heard starting 3pm tomorrow at the Hsinyi District Shinkong Mitsukoshi department store's A10 parking lot. Fans of the genre — regardless of which brand of jazz you prefer — will not want to miss this once-a-year chance to listen to the best bands the island has to offer.

The event's preliminary round was held two weeks ago and saw 10 bands try to blow each other out of the competition for an NT$100,000 first prize. Five emerged — the favorites of a panel of judges — and it will be these best-of-the-best bands that take the stage tomorrow.

The finalists, who were announced at the end of the preliminary round in no particular order, are: Jazzaholix, Jazz Vibrations, Melody Slaves, Riddim Outlaw and Family and United Jazz Band.

The finalist bands were generally bigger outfits with a bigger sound but otherwise differed greatly in their individual styles. Riddim Outlaw and Family played what they deemed an “island style” of jazz. United Jazz Band — whose members hail from Canada the US, Taiwan and Russia — distinguished themselves with a cooler sound that featured a flautist. Jazzaholix and Jazz Vibrations offered a more standard style. And the Melody Slaves presented a mash-up of jazz, blues and rock that was anything but standard.

Asked if they'd like to explain the meaning of their name, the brass front man of The Melody Slaves declined. His band then went on to prove that they're anything but slaves to melody — or rhythm for that matter. They first spent a minute thrashing out a cacophony of clashing sounds and styles, then spent another nine minutes jamming freestyle, the only band of the evening to forego a standard set of two songs.

There was a lively debate during and after the preliminary round, with some audience members lauding their favorites and others suggesting some of the bands weren't playing jazz at all.

“The old guys [of Jazz Vibrations] obviously have been playing a long time and know jazz very well. But I'm not sure if Melody Slaves are really a jazz band. I liked what they played a lot, but I don't know if I'd call it jazz,” proffered one audience member who shied away from offering his name.

His date disagreed. “It sounded like jazz to me. Taiwanese haven't been listening to jazz very long and most of what we hear is standards. We hear something like what [Melody Slaves] played and we're not sure what to think.”

It's a problem that has long plagued ICRT's Bill Thissen, who is one of the competition's judges. Following the preliminary round he offered a bit of newfound insight.

“A lot of people have asked me if a certain song or sound is jazz. It's hard to define. But after listening to the wide array of styles we heard tonight, I've decided my answer from now on is, if a musician tells me he plays jazz, then it's jazz.”

You'll be able to judge for yourself at tomorrow's finals as each of the five bands will be given more time on stage to show off their stuff.

ICRT has extended an invitation for all audience members to stick around for a block party-style celebration following tomorrow afternoon's competition. The competition is free to all. The Hsinyi Shinkong Mitsukoshi is a five minute walk south of Taipei City Hall MRT station.

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