Kuala Lumpur’s signature jazz festival is all set to take place this weekend.
THE upcoming Kuala Lumpur International Jazz & Arts Festival (KLIJAF) returns to the city for its third instalment this weekend, with an impressive line-up of musicians including the Grammy-nominated pianist John Beasley; Japanese pianist, composer and humanitarian Keiko Matsui; and American jazz fusion outfit Tizer Quartet.
Jazz fusion guitarist Lee Ritenour, 62, also swings back to Kuala Lumpur for his second appearance at the KLIJAF. The crowd favourite, was a highlight at last year's festival. Ritenour is set to close this year's festival this Sunday. The guitarist replaces Grammy award-winning vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur, who will not be part of the festival as announced by the organisers earlier.
To be held at Universiti Malaya on May 17 and 18, KLIJAF is organised by KL International Jazz Festival and Asia World Events, in collaboration with Universiti Malaya.
However, unlike the previous two festivals, KLIJAF now includes art as part of its attractions. Selected artists have been invited to showcase their works at the exhibition.
“Instead of it being a purely jazz festival, we have re-branded the event to incorporate arts in the name. There are very few festivals in this region, which combine visual art and jazz. We will be presenting artists from various genres with plenty of artwork on sale. We want people to be engaged in both art and music so we’ll be having an art-jamming session as well,” reveals KLIJAF chairman Maizon Omar.
In addition, there will be an art village highlighting works by young and emerging artists. On display and sale will be all kinds of crafts and pottery. The public can also have their portraits drawn here.
There will be more than 60 international and 100 local musicians performing all forms of jazz.
“We have the popular acts and the ‘heavy guys’,” says Rodin JS Kumar, festival managing director. “It’s not true that KLIJAF has been watered down. For example, Keiko Matsui has done lots of genres. You can’t categorise her music but she has released more than 20 albums.”
Headliner Beasley’s music career spans three decades and he has served as music director for countless television and studio shows. Not only has he played (or toured) with some of the jazz giants such as Miles Davies, and Freddie Hubbard, he was also the music composer for TV shows like Fame, Cheers, Family Ties and Star Trek: The Next Gen.
The younger generation might recognise Beasley’s piano skills on Adele’s Skyfall.
LA Times jazz critic Bill Kohlhaasee describes Beasley’s music and playing as “a variety of generational influences, incorporating the emphatic chordal clusters of Herbie Hancock, the rhythmic quirkiness of Monk and the lush intelligence of Art Tatum into a highly refined personal voice.”
For his solo act at the festival, he will pay tribute to three jazz greats – Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock.
Matsui became the first Japanese artist to top Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts for three consecutive weeks with her album Deep Blue (2001).
She released her debut album entitled A Drop Of Water in 1987 and continues to tour the globe, lending her voice to humanitarian organisations such as the United Nations World Food Programme and Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Led by keyboardist/composer Lao Tizer, the Tizer Quartet’s music is a modern twist to the 1970s and early 1980s heyday of jazz fusion, when trailblazing ensembles like Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report set the aesthetic standard. Expect an explosive mix of jazz, rock and world beat from this multi-cultural bunch.
Other international acts slated to perform at KLIJAF include guitarist Jeff Kollman, known for his powerful melodic electric guitar playing, fusing elements of jazz harmony into his hybrid melodic hard-rock/funk style; American bebop pianist Kirk Lightsey; bassist Christy Smith, saxophone players Keith Loftis and Patrick Terbrack; David Tughan, who will do a tribute to the great trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker; and drummer Roger Biwandu from France.
Local acts include Rachel Guerzo, Steve Thornton, Ruslan Iman, Jordan Rivers and saxophonist Razak Rahman, who will perform with the Niccolo Faraci Trio and as part of the KL Jazz Project.
Razak, 55, who was a child prodigy, made his first appearance on local television as a 12-year-old, winning the talent contest Bakat TV in 1971. His personalised sound on the tenor saxophone is heavily influenced by Stan Getz.
With a passion to promote jazz and art, Rodin concludes: “There is a huge jazz audience in the country. We want to create an experience. People want to hear good sounds and see how musicians play. Our sound engineers have been brought in from France and the lighting director is from Japan so the audience can expect top quality sound at the KLIJAF.”
Kuala Lumpur International Jazz & Arts Festival takes places at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur on May 17 and 18. For further info, visit www.klinternationaljazz.com or call 03-5637 7742 / 03-5637 1539. Tickets are available at: www.ticketpro.com.my or via the hotline (03-7880 7999).