The Taipei International Jazz Festival closes its four-weekend summer run of performances with a two-day finale that starts tonight at Daan Forest Park Amphitheater in Taipei. All shows are free.
The festival began last month with a series of performances by jazz artists and bands from Taiwan, France, Israel, Japan and South Korea. The festivities today will start with an afternoon parade featuring Afro-Cuban, New Orleans and Latin music.
When night falls, the Koyo Conservatory All-Star Quartet from Japan will take the stage first, followed by a dozen accomplished musicians from Taiwan, Europe, South Africa and the US performing together on stage.
Many of the performers are familiar faces to participants of past festivals, including German hard-bop guitarist Joachim Schoenecker, Italian drummer Mimi Verderame, celebrated trombonist Alan Ferber from New York and US saxophonist John Ruocco, whose music career has spanned more than 50 years and who is an inspiring mentor to violinist Hsieh Chi-pin (謝啟彬), who cofounded the festival with pianist Chang Kai-ya (張凱雅).
“Ruocco is the Yoda in our group. He knows everything about jazz,” Hsieh said. “Every year he comes to teach at our camp and becomes a great inspiration to young musicians.”
Hsieh was referring to the Taipei International Summer Jazz Academy, an annual weeklong camp connected to the festival and open to high-school and college students. Jazz artists invited to the festival also join the camp faculty each year.
Meanwhile, amid the controversy surrounding the closure of rock house Underworld, Liu Wei-gong (劉維公), commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which funds the festival, yesterday attended the press event promoting the concerts to show support.
Liu said that when people talk about lives houses in Taiwan, they usually leave out jazz clubs because there are so few of them.
“Every exciting city in the world has a thriving jazz scene,” Liu said. “In Taipei, we have Blue Note and Brown Sugar, but that’s nowhere near enough. We will work toward having more jazz venues and activities next year. It is a promise.”
Hsieh said the government’s support was welcome, but the most important thing was the music itself.
“People get the idea from movies or advertisement that it is romantic to enjoy a glass of wine while listening to jazz music,” the violinist said. “But musicians are not dependent on live houses and venues. They use music to communicate, to bring people together.”
This is the reason why Hsieh and Chang want to bring the music to public spaces like parks, rather than concert halls, because anyone interested can join and have a good time.
“I believe that great musicians create great music places. If you appreciate the music, it doesn’t matter where it is performed. It is mobile, fluid and can be anywhere,” Hsieh said.
For more information, visit www.taipeijazz.com/TaipeiInternationalJazzFestival.