This year’s Taichung Jazz Festival (台中爵士音樂節), which starts tomorrow and runs until Oct. 23, gives a nod to two great musical legacies of the last century: those of composer and bassist Charles Mingus and saxophonist John Coltrane.
Mingus Dynasty, formed in 1979 shortly after Mingus’ death, headlines tomorrow at the festival’s main stage at Civic Square (市民廣場). Under the direction of Mingus’ wife Sue Mingus, the seven-piece, New York-based group is made up of a rotating cast of both established and up-and-coming players devoted to performing the colorful bandleader’s extensive repertoire.
Mingus’ work is unmatched in the jazz world for its breadth. He wrote some 300 compositions, a number surpassed only by Duke Ellington, one of his heroes. He is also celebrated and revered for his ambitious compositions — he infused soul and gospel into his unique brand of hard bop while also drawing from classical and avant-garde music. Mingus’ famously volatile personality is reflected in the drama and passion of his music.
Some of his best work was written for mid-sized ensembles and focused on collective improvisation, which Mingus Dynasty will demonstrate tomorrow.
Legendary pianist McCoy Tyner closes the festival on Oct. 23. The 72-year-old came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the John Coltrane Quartet, and forged a distinctive playing style that continues to influence jazz pianists today.
Tyner, who first played in Taiwan at the National Concert Hall in Taipei in 2008, returns with a program that looks back to the golden days of his tenure with Coltrane. Along with drummer Francisco Mela and bassist Gerald Cannon, Tyner will perform numbers from John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, the classic 1963 album released by Impulse Records. Helping Tyner and his trio revive these songs will be several young-generation talents, saxophonist Chris Potter and vocalist Jose James, who will sing Hartman’s parts.
What: Taichung Jazz Festival
When: Starts tomorrow, runs until Oct. 23. Main stage performances start at 6pm
Where: Civic Square (市民廣場) and CMP Block (勤美誠品綠園道正後方), 257-2, Jhonggang Rd Sec 1, West Dist, Greater Taichung (台中市西區中港路一段257之2號)
On the Net: www.taichungjazzfestival2011.com.tw
Details: Free of charge
The festival, which is now in its ninth year and is organized by the Taichung City Cultural Affairs Bureau, is often touted as the city’s major arts event of the fall season. The bureau says attendance last year doubled from the previous year, with 750,000 persons visiting over nine days. That number may not be as high this year, as one of the festival’s previous locations, Ching-kuo Boulevard Parkway (經國綠園道), is undergoing renovations.
The headlining acts will perform at Civic Square as usual, while the other groups take the stage at the nearby CMP Block (勤美誠品綠園道正後方), a smaller outdoor park space located behind an Eslite Bookstore complex.
In addition to McCoy Tyner and Mingus Dynasty, jazz fans won’t want to miss other headline performers such as the Charles Tolliver Band, which performs on Sunday night. Tolliver is a past winner of Downbeat magazine’s Critic’s Poll in the trumpet category and is also highly regarded as a bandleader. His 2007 recording With Love was nominated for a Grammy award for best large jazz ensemble album.
Next weekend, the Sirius Quartet adds a classical element to the event. This group of four conservatory-trained musicians from New York City brings improvisational elements and a rock attitude to its music, using both traditional string quartet instruments and electronic effects.
More than 50 groups, including ensembles from Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and Germany, are scheduled to play during the nine-day event. For a full lineup and detailed information on the performers, visit the festival’s Web site at www.taichungjazzfestival2011.com.tw.