By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
THE THAILAND International Jazz Conference returns next weekend to its Mahidol University Salaya home and this year is celebrating its tenth anniversary with what promises to be a memorable and enriching musical experience – the first jazz symphony ever to be performed in Thailand. As ever, the event will be playing host to some of the greatest jazz artists in the world.
“We have really come a long way. The Conference started as a small-scale music event featuring our students and those from other universities. Over the years, we have built a great music community. I had the chance to attend a jazz conference in New York and was surprised to see that it focused on musicians and jazz educators in addition to media, students and the public. Jazz festivals in our country, on the other hand, are always focused on tourism and business more than the music content, and are regarded as a tool to stimulate the economy,” says Krit Buranavitayawut, saxophone instructor and associate dean for construction development for the university’s College of Music.
“So we decided to organise a jazz music conference because we could educate people and build bigger a fan base, as well as foster inspiration in our students. We bring the world of jazz music into our university and students can learn from this real world, instead of watching their favourite jazz artists on YouTube or videos. And when world-famous jazz artists come here, we can learn about their rehearsals and the way they think. Learning from a world-famous artist for just one day is more valuable than studying in the classroom for one year,” he adds.
Looking back to the early days of the Thailand International Jazz Conference, Krit remembers worrying if the content would be too complex for people to understand.
“We discovered that the greater part of the audience was seriously interested in music and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the artists. On the other hand, the workshops we held generated far less interest, which clearly indicates that the public much preferred the performances to education. For their part, the artists were great both in performing and educating. They really inspired those who turned out for the workshops. The first year, Japanese trumpeter Toru ‘Tiger’ Okoshi’s performance drew plenty of audience participation. Attitudes have changed though and today the audience, both Thais and foreign, with many coming from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, seems much more interested in the education aspects,” he continues.
Krit points out that the College of Music is primarily an educational institute and was the first in the country to offer a jazz curriculum.
“We don’t organise TIJC for ourselves but for the jazz community, and more importantly, to promote sustainable growth in the jazz festival business. TIJC is a stage for new artists to show off their abilities. Today, we have 60 big bands from educational institutions, universities and schools asking to perform on our oval stage. Content has changed too. In the past, the bands would perform commercial covers; today they play their own compositions. TIJC continues to grow and attract a wider diversity of fans. We are proud that the TIJC is known among jazz musicians in New York with some of them even wearing our t-shirts at jazz clubs.”
Krit, who is a member of the jazz quartet Pomelo Town, has personally witnessed the fame of the conference.
“We [Pomelo Town] performed on the same stage as Canadian tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake at clubs in New Delhi and Mumbai, India. While we were flying from Mumbai to New Delhi, Blake asked me if I had heard of the TIJC, as he really wanted to play there. I told him that I was on the organising committee and invited him to perform the following year.”
This year’s conference features a broad range of categories including performance, education, a solo jazz competition, lifetime achievement, an exhibition and a three-day jazz camp. The camp will bring together 80 interested people from Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“The education part continues to grow. We want TIJC to be a model for people to enjoy an artistic and academic balance, one that can be applied to other musical genres or even traditional Thai music. The benefits are enormous. Take South Korea: It has the highest number of students going to study jazz in the US and as a result, K-Pop is very popular. Those students came back home and develop music and apply jazz to pop and other music genres.
“And the Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia does better that ours even though our jazz festival came first.”
This year, TIJC will welcome more bands from the Asean bloc in addition to such big names as the Will Vinson Quintet, the Claudio Filippini Trio, the Alfredo Rodriguez Trio, Enrico Zanisi, Steve Cannon Soultet, Jared Sims, Randy Johnson and, thanks to the support of the Italian Embassy, Italian trumpeter Fabrizio Bosso. Thai artist Tachaya “Keng the Voice” Pratumwan will also perform.
The Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, which holds the majority of its performances at the university’s Prince Mahidol Hall, has been part of the TIJC for the past three years and returns for this edition, providing the backing for four concerts. The first features electric guitarists Petchpoom Petchkaew, winner of the junior division at TIJC 2017, who will perform His Majesty King Bhumibol’s “Old-fashioned Melody”, and Pamai Chirdkiatisak, who will perform “The Man We Love”, composed by Darin Pantoomkomol. The second sees trumpeter Bosso on stage, while the third melds classical music and jazz for a recital of Shostakovich’s “Suite for Variety Orchestra” also known as “Jazz Suite No 2”.
The TPO will close the concert with a performance of a new piece based on two Northern Thai folk songs, “Noi Chaiya” and “Selemao”, rearranged by Narong Prangcharoen, composer and dean of the College of Music.
“Pomelo Town performed the rearranged piece for the first time at Corfu Festival in Greece in 2009 and again at TIJC in 2010 before recording it on our album in 2012,” says Krit.”
“This year, we will play it again at TIJC, but together with TPO.”
LET THE MUSIC BEGIN
- A three-day conference pass for all events costs Bt3,000, a one-day clinic pass Bt500 and a one-day performance pass Bt800 at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com, (02) 262 3456 and the College of Music.
- Call (02) 849 6565-6, extensions 6604, 6609.
- Find out more at www.music.Mahidol.ac.th/tijc.