A jazz journeyman, a direct musical link to John Coltrane, a pianist destined for stardom, and one of the most distinguished jazz vocalists today.
This year the National Theater and Concert Hall’s (NTCH) Summer Jazz Party (夏日爵士派對) boasts its most impressive lineup ever, with saxophonist Kenny Garrett kicking off the series tomorrow night, and pianists McCoy Tyner and Hiromi Uehara, and singer Dianne Reeves appearing over the next four weeks.
“We’ve gone back to the mainstream,” says Tung Shuen-wen (董舜文), a jazz saxophonist and teacher who serves on the National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center’s (國立中正文化中心) committee that selects performing artists.
In past years, the CKS Cultural Center sought to have a balance of famous and lesser-known but accomplished jazz artists, Tung says. It invited major American jazz musicians such as saxophonist Joe Lovano and vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater, as well as lesser-known but equally accomplished artists from places such as Europe and Australia.
It might have been the best of both worlds for local jazz fanatics, but feedback from general audiences was less enthusiastic, according to Tung. They wanted to see more of the “masters.” Does this reflect more discerning, more mature tastes in Taiwan? Perhaps, Tung says, but what Taiwanese audiences clearly want is more “entertainment.”
And entertainment they’ll get with these four artists, Tung promises. This year’s performers strike the right balance of musical virtuosity and showmanship, he says, noting saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s performance in Taipei in 2005. “He got everyone up and dancing, and made [the National Concert Hall] look like a dance hall.”
WHAT: 2008 Summer Jazz Party (夏日爵士派對) featuring Kenny Garrett, Hiromi Uehara, McCoy Tyner, and Dianne Reeves
WHEN: Tonight through Sept. 15
WHERE:International acts at the National Concert Hall (國家音樂廳); local acts at the Experimental Theater (實驗劇場), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City(台北市中山南路21-1號)
ON THE NET: event.ntch.edu.tw/2008/JAZZ
TICKETS: NT$600 to NT$3,000 for international acts; NT$500 for local acts. Tickets are available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com.tw
Garrett returns tomorrow night to get the party started once again. The 47-year-old, who is considered one of the preeminent alto saxophonists in jazz today, has long been known as a musical explorer, having played and recorded with a long list of major figures in jazz, including Miles Davis, Art Blakey and Bobby Hutcherson, as well as pop musicians such as Sting, Peter Gabriel and hip-hop artist Guru.
An avid traveler, Garrett is interested in Asian cultures and music and has visited Taiwan several times. Garrett became a fan of the Taiwanese Aboriginal singer Difang (郭英男), whose music he discovered on a past visit. “Usually when I go to a new country I buy some indigenous music … this is how I came to know Difang,” he said in a brief e-mail interview. Garrett composed a song dedicated to the Amis singer, which appears on his 2003 album Happy People.
Garrett said his travels to Japan and South Korea led him to believe that “China is the source of Asian culture,” an idea that influenced his latest album Beyond the Wall, which was inspired by a three-week trip to China.
One musical hero and past collaborator of Garrett’s is McCoy Tyner, who performs on Sept. 5. Viewed by musicians and critics alike as the consummate pianist, Tyner helped to shape modern jazz as part of the John Coltrane Quartet in the 1960s. His rhythmic and percussive approach led to a new vocabulary for jazz piano, which is demonstrated on such classic Coltrane recordings as Impressions and A Love Supreme.
After his tenure with Coltrane, Tyner became an accomplished composer and performer, releasing more than 80 albums to date and earning four Grammy awards. In the 1970s he broke new ground with his Grammy-nominated Sahara, an album that incorporated African influences. Tyner’s recent work includes a Latin album and arranging for big bands.