This year I attended the Thailand International Jazz Conference 2015. It was an epic 3-day event that blew my mind, inspired and made me so many things. I decided to write this blog post as a highlight reel for anyone curious about how the event was like. I definitely recommend jazzers (both fans and performers) to attend this yearly event.
This blog post is divided into 2 parts:
a) The Workshops
b) The Concerts
Here it goes...
a) The Workshops
I attended most of the workshops but will focus on lessons I learned from 7 workshops for this blog post.
Passakorn Morasilpin: Saxophone
I couldn’t really follow what Passakorn explained during the workshop but tried my best to learn directly from his playing. I learned some ideas for jazz improvisation from an example he played for a tune (I think it was All The Things You Are). Here’s an excerpt from I observed...
Jazz improvisation lessons from watching Passakorn:
- Play melody and displace notes rhythmically for tension
He started off by just playing the melody of the song. Then, he displaced the rhythms to create interest in the melody. It was interesting to hear how he sustained the melody notes. It was longer than what I would usually hear myself play.
- Embellish melody notes to create thematic solo
Then, he started embellishing the melody notes. This part of the solo was cool because you could still follow the melody as it was only slightly disguised.
- Play melody in different octaves
Next up, he started playing the melody in different octaves. I think some parts of the melody was displaced but not all.
- Transpose melody to create thematic solos
I heard this during a very small segment of the melody. This is one of my favorite thematic improvisation techniques so it was very cool to hear Passakorn use this in his example.
Peter Slavov Performance, Rhythm Section Interaction, Contemporary Jazz Bass and Improvisation
Peter talked about different aspects of how he looked at the bass and rhythm section. The highlight for me was the opportunity to play with Peter on stage and get feedback on my playing. We played over a blues and Peter gave feedback about our solos. It was Toro Cheng on piano, Julian Chan on sax and myself on guitar.
George Garzone’s Workshop
Garzone is a genius. Basically everything he said in the workshop was pure wisdom. Here’s what I remember:
- Your sound is the most important thing
- People will not remember what you play but the sound you have will stay in their minds
- When playing ballads, just play the melody
- (For saxophonists) The future of your music is dependent on your long tone.
- It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it.
- (For saxophonists) The articulation is in your fingers, not in your tongue.
Drum Masterclass with Francisco Mela
Francisco Mela’s energy is infectious! The best part about his workshop was the clarity of his message and how his playing punctuated his message. Here’s what I got from his session:
- Sound is money
- The most important element in jazz is swing
- The voice of a jazz drummer is in the ride cymbal
- Play and listen - eliminate what you don’t like about your playing
Matt Brewer: Organizing Improvisation
I digested three main points from bassist Matt Brewer’s workshop:
- Create actual musical statements (using motivic improvisation)
- It takes patience to develop a single musical idea
- Be patient, transcribe and model your improvisation using this organized improvisation concept
Lage Lund: Voice Leading and Moving Inner Voices
Lage Lund’s workshop was called Voice Leading and Moving Inner Voices. However, the coolest part was how open Lage to questions from the audience. I managed to ask three questions on his approach to melodic improvisation. My main takeaways were:
Use voicings as a basis for melodic ideas
I was very fascinated with how Lage Lund created long melodic lines so I asked him how he created those. He said then to him there was no difference between voicings and lines. Then, he demonstrated how he used different voicings melodically. It was very cool.
- Embellish voicings with approach notes to create more chromatic ideas
From this basic voiceled voicings idea, he showed how he expanded his lines with approach notes. He started with just a single approach note and then added more approach notes (diatonic and chromatic) into two or all three of the notes of the voicing.
How to use different notes beyond standard chord extensions
Lage also explained how over time he started to hear different notes as extensions of standard chords. He used b7 over a Major7 chord as example. He played a low-voiced 3rd inversion CMaj7 chord followed by a CMaj7 arpeggio that ended on a Bb on the 2nd octave. I’m not sure what he played in between but basically the Bb sounded like a tension over CMajor7. Interesting stuff!
WORKSHOP 7: Nial Djuliarso / Robert Mulyarahardja: Sounding Good Quickly with People You’ve Never Met/Played Before
It was very cool to watch Nial Djuliarso and Robert Mulyahardja perform during their session. It was great to hear Robert play again after not seeing him for years. I remember him from our time at Berklee and how we had some classes together, advanced harmony classes with Steve Rochinski to be specific! We also managed to jam together in a very acoustic session earlier in the morning, much in the spirit of their workshop topic.
Nial pointed out some great advice. Two key points that I remember clearly include:
Choose songs that everyone knows (not Pinocchio by Wayne Shorter for instance)
Play shorter solos
Have a meal together with your all the band members for the event before you play - this is so you can get to know each other before you even play a note together. Chemistry can make a huge difference in the performance
Nial is a very prominent jazz pianist who I’ve heard about over the years though we never met in person until this year’s TIJC. I really look forward to playing with both of them in the future!
Friday, January 30, 2015
Silpakorn University Jazz Orchestra had amazing energy. Like many of the jazz orchestras and big bands I would hear over the next few days, they were awesome. It made me miss playing in a jazz orchestra and reminded me of my time playing in the San Jose State University Jazz Orchestra. Next up, Passakorn Morasilpin’s group performance introduced me to jazz vocalist Natt Buntita. Her vocal style combines world music and jazz sounds in an elegant manner. I loved how her voice became a part of the instrumental texture. It reminded me of the kind of jazz vocals I loved. Part Esperanza Spalding with hints of Gretchen Parlato, and definitely a lot of her own personality. Passakorn’s playing was powerful and he played with a beautiful tone throughout his set.
For the Silpakorn Faculty Jazz Ensemble’s set, I heard so many interesting sounds and songs. A highlight for me was the jazz guitar of Dan Phillips who I met just less than an hour before he took the stage. Thanks toJulian Chan for introducing me to him! As Dan played, I was enamoured by his clear lines and distinct rhythmic phrasing. Right after that set, I went looking for his CDs and bought two of his recent ones. The next night, I bought his instructional DVD as well.
The George Garzone Trio was an intense end to the night. There was amazing chemistry in the band. Every single note that Garzone played was clear and beautiful.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Chai & The Blues Maniacs Featuring Nurse was a fun electric blues set. It felt longer than I expected. Still, it was a good addition to the daytime workshop session I attended. Den Euprasert's Project R was high energy and I love Denny's playing. I particulary loved how he developed his solos.
Closing the second night was Lage Lund Trio’s hypnotic set. To me, his trio performance was more akin to watching someone explore short stories. It wasn't playing standards in the more often seen melody-solos-melody form. Lage’s mastery of counterpoint, low-voiced chords added a conversational quality to his flowing lines. The chordal structures brings depth into the guitar trio format. It was a tight performance full of so many interesting ideas. It has made me into a serious fan. Not to miss out, I bought his instructional DVD right after the set. I’ve wanted it for a while but since it wasn’t available for shipping to Malaysia been unable to get it. Am working through it now and learning so much!
Sunday, February 1, 2015
Mahidol University Jazz Orchestra was in full force with a strong sound. I only caught a little bit of their set. But, I heard their soundcheck earlier during the day which was awesome! Jetset'er came up next with a mix of throwback 1980 to early 2000s pop and dance music sounds. I enjoyed their music. There were so many classic arrangements ideas throughout. Fun music full of life!
Pomelo Town's set was a saxophone battle extravaganza. Krit Buranavittayawut, Koh Mr.Saxman and Jakob Dinsen took turns playing lines in harmony (and jazzier discordant counterpoint at times) and then taking intense solos.
Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet closed the festival with full swing (pun intended) playing tight arrangements that subtlely challenged the listeners. Odd-meters, metric modulations and all sorts of geeky jazzy goodness was abound. The most beautiful part was the closing when they surprised audiences with the Thai National Anthem. Playing it in their distinguished elegant way was the perfect end to a wonderful conference. Thank you to everyone at TIJC for organizing this event and it was great to be alongside fellow Malaysians there, celebrating and learning more about jazz - the art form that we love.
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