Fri, Jun 05, 2009 - Page 13 News List

Jazz for the musicians … but for the masses, too

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

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When jazz musicians describe their songs for an upcoming performance as “challenging,” the alarm bells are likely to go off for casual listeners.

But there’s no need to worry with the Dan Perkins Quartet, which plays at Sappho on Tuesday. Bandmembers say their challenge will be to present music that is interesting for both the musicians and the audience.

For US saxophonist Dan Perkins, who was based in Southern California but is in the process of moving to Japan, this means choosing songs with a variety of grooves ranging from ballads to funk, and genres spanning modern jazz to pop.

“The thing I’m afraid of is the audience being bored. I don’t want them to be bored,” said Perkins in an interview after a rehearsal in Xindian.

While the 37-year-old is thoroughly immersed in the jazz world — he just completed his master’s degree in jazz performance at the California Institute of the Arts and has studied with accomplished musicians such as saxophonist Ernie Watts and drummer Joe La Barbera — he still tries to be mindful of the other half of the equation in music: the listener.

“Sometimes, players, we get caught up in our own world, and we don’t consider: if I was an audience member would I be enjoying this? I know jazz is a player’s music, but I also have to consider what my audience is thinking, and would they find this interesting,” he said.

The quartet will be playing songs with more intricate arrangements as opposed to the typical run of standards conducive to freeform jamming. Selections include McCoy Tyner’s My Love, Effendi, Medeski, Martin and Wood’s Wiggly’s Way and the Beatles’ Across the Universe.

In a nod to local audiences, the quartet also plans to perform a few well-known numbers, The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心) and I Only Care About You (我只在你) — songs made famous by the late, revered singer Teresa Deng (鄧麗君).

The Mando-pop tunes were chosen by Perkins’ friend and college classmate, Chris Stiles, a trombonist and pianist who has been based in Taipei for five years. Stiles and the drummer from his own group, the Chris Stiles Trio, are serving as Perkins’ backing band.

Stiles, an Arizona native who also plays piano for Brown Sugar’s house band, says he often includes songs Taiwanese know in his shows. Luring audiences in with a familiar melody, he says, can go a long way in educating audiences new to jazz.

“Something just as simple as explaining that we’re going to play [a Chinese song], we’re going to play the melody — something as simple as that can help turn a light on,” he said.

Naturally, the quartet’s show on Tuesday won’t be a note-for-note rehash of Teresa Deng’s best. Their version of The Moon Represents My Heart obliges the original melody but has a “floating” feeling with “lots of cymbals,” said Stiles.

“It feels more freeing,” he said. “We’re not bound by regular rules or structure. But ... adding those jazz harmonies, to me, makes it sound more sentimental.”

Joining Perkins and Stiles will be Taipei-based drummer Ed Schaefer and bassist Martijn van Buel.

Dan Perkins Quartet plays Sappho de Base, B1, 1, Ln 102, Anhe Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市安和路一段102巷1號B1) on Tuesday at 10pm. Call (02) 2700-05411 or visit www.sappho102.biz for more information. Cover charge is NT$200.

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