The jazz festival is a pleasure all round, increasingly so as it grows from year to year. Someday we may expect Phuket town’s jazz extravaganza ranked among the island’s principal draws, along with the beaches and exotic nightlife.
27 April 2016 will mark the start of Jazz Day’s fifth year, with major performances not only on Chana Charoen Rd, site of the fest since its inception in 2011 and home to Music Matter, but at a site yet to be announced. This year, the show begins on 27th April, and will include events related to the city’s new found status as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy – which in plain terms means there’s going to be some great food to go along with the music.
The municipal government extended a helping hand almost from the moment Kay Mongkolkaew and Jeffrey Sevilla, proprietors of Music Matter, broached the idea to Deputy Mayor Kavee Tansukhatanon. The deputy mayor is a jazz aficionado and has often helped promote the art: so the Old Phuket Festival always features a jazz band; a cycling association event at Saphan Hin earlier this year had one (Kavee is secretary of the club); and a jazz singer from Finland recently performed a gala concert at the Limelight auditorium. The rest of the city council also see the event’s value – and well they should.
Phuket has an opportunity to make a name for itself in music, and in this regard the Jazz Day concerts are central. Phuket is the only town in Thailand to join the festival, held in 196 countries and Antarctica, every year. It’s now part of the city calendar of events.
Last April in Phuket more than a thousand showed up, and hundreds waited through an hour-and-a-half downpour, staying till the last act of 15 finished at 3am. Each act had something unique to offer, as well, from the pop-inflected blues of Richard Wright’s Black and Blue Band, to George
Cordeiro’s fusion-jazz rockabilly mix, the classic jazz ballads of famous Filipino saxophonist Eddie K, and the balls-out virtuosity of local hero Franco Payao’s Band. Thai listeners were all abuzz at the charming and eclectic interpretations Kay and Jeffrey brought to several of King Bhumibol’s compositions, especially their stand-out version of ‘HM Blues’.
Those new to Thailand may be interested to know that the King, now 88 years-old, is a jazz performer and composer of international repute, having jammed over the years with such luminaries from the golden era of jazz as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton and Benny Carter. Les Brown, Claude Bolling, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, among others, have recorded his numbers. He also started his own radio station, where, for decades, people could tune in to his Friday jazz programs, and led a jazz band, the Au Saw Wan
Suk band, featuring performances by himself with stand-out Thai jazz players. The king’s midnight-till-dawn jazz get-togethers are well attested.
His Majesty has been a leading exponent of the art since 1942, so it is appropriate Thailand should be one of the world’s centres for celebrating International Jazz Day – and where better to do it than Phuket?
This year Jeffrey Sevilla, the organiser, plans to spread the event over four days, 27 - 30 April. The 27th is a Wednesday and every Wednesday sees a jazz jam at Music Matter – which this year will kick off the festival. The following day will feature a jazz workshop, tentatively scheduled for Satree Phuket School. On Friday evening (Apr 29) a monster music and gastronomic food festival will be held, and on Saturday (Apr 30) the culminating event – the Jazz Street Festival – will take place on Chana Charoen Rd in Phuket Town.
Bands are flying in from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, the Philippines and England; and, as usual, the cream of Phuket’s jazz players – a highly international array – will also perform.
This year, owing to the great number of individual musicians who show up, in addition to the usual band-after-band format, there will be jam periods, with lineups that morph before your eyes. As Jeffrey says: “We’re all professionals here: we don’t have to practice a song; it’s more interesting – and more jazz – to just do it.”
In addition to music and food, the event is a showcase for pictorial and performance art, and handicrafts of all sorts.
The Phuket News is a proud, continuing media sponsor of the Phuket Jazz Fest. If you know something festival organisers should really be aware of, tell ‘em: contact Jefrey Sevilla on Facebook at Music Matter Phuket or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org