By Jason Rupp and Carla Marie Rupp
Think of being at a thrilling jazz event in a tropical atmosphere with delicious Thai food, uplifting music and friendly, excited people enjoying every minute.
Sounds good, right? Enriching culturally? Yes!
The Thailand International Jazz Conference (TIJC) is one of our favorites and does just that this weekend, Friday morning through Sunday night, January 31- February 2, 2014. Admission is about $25 for an individual evening or daytime event, or about $100 for the entire weekend. Everyone’s invited to this jazz-learning vacation.
A Jazz Oasis
It’s a jazz oasis at the College of Music, held both indoors and out at the lovely, tropical campus in Nakhon Pathom, a short commute from Bangkok. Its motto is “Through jazz, a society of happiness” and as fans of this growing festival at Thailand’s Mahidol University (Salaya), we believe it follows it well.
Amazingly, the area used to be a large pomelo orchard and one group, The Pomelo Town, is named after the citrus fruit. We bought their CDs after hearing them play the last few years and can recommend Krit Buranavittayawut, alto saxophone; Darin Pantoomkomol, piano; Noppadol Tirataradol, bass; and Kom Wongsawat, drums. They are among those who built this festival.
14 Jazz Big Bands
New are 14 jazz big bands and orchestras from all over Thailand and the world, filling the daytime with fantastic music. TIJC has music performances in the evening, jazz education during the morning, afternoon workshops, master classes and a solo competition anyone can enter.
“Normally those of us in Thailand interested in bringing our jazz to a higher level have to go abroad,” says vocalist June Subhakorn, “but Mahidol University brings it here to us.” All this inspires further development of Thailand’s jazz prowess, especially with help from experts.
Organizers call it an international shout-out to the legacy of Charlie (“Bird”) Parker, America’s “Godfather” of bebop jazz. His song, “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” could be revised “Get Relaxin’ at Mahidol.” It was Dr. Sugree Charoensook’s vision: “living jazz classrooms” for all.
“This is a very special place,” says bassist Eddie Gomez, who recounts growing up in New York City and achieving renown. “It’s been quite a journey with lots of blessings. I’ve been exposed to the old masters of jazz and people who let me grow and be close to something I love.”
“Love at First Night”
Like Gomez, other top jazz artists are also invited: Peter Bernstein, Benny Green, Danilo Perez, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Rich Perry and Kenny Werner. Thai music writer Anant Lerpradit called seeing Werner “love at first night.”
This year younger hot groups and artists such as Stranahan/Zalesti/Rosato, Seamus Blake and pianist Aaron Parks will appear with Parks bringing bassist Ben Street and legendary 70+ years-old drummer Billy Hart, who worked with Miles Davis.
“It’s a small world,” Kom Wongsawat, Pomelo Town’s drummer who’s working on his doctorate in America, told us. He networked to bring many of the American artists. We met the drummer and the pianist’s jazz-loving family in the lounge sponsored by Mercedes Benz. “It’s remarkable how Thailand and New York City work together to bring jazz here,” said his brother Warapat.
Thai artists who take jazz and do it their own way include Singto Numchok, Tewan Sapsanyakorn and Denny Euprasert. Koh Mr. Saxman, a well-known saxophonist in Thailand, combines Western and Thai music in Siam Sound. He plays at Jazz Sushi or at the Saxophone Pub, where we first saw him – and is mind-blowing proficient and so super-friendly you can just walk up to him and chat as we did.
Music Square at TIJC is where we found Danish saxophonist Jakob Dineson eating. “It’s very classy and dedicated to jazz musicians here,” he told us. They treat us with a lot of respect and appreciation.” We discussed ballads he played on the saxophone, why he likes winters better in Thailand than in Copenhagen, and talked about some of the jazz venues in Bangkok, such as Jazz Sushi, that even have saxophone classes upstairs.
Jazz enthusiasts come from Thailand and Southeast Asia, the United States, Russia, Europe, Korea, Japan and China. Some musicians stay at campus hotel Salaya Pavilion To get there we just take a taxi or shuttle van from the center of Bangkok.
The Jazz King
His Majesty the King of Thailand (the Jazz King) Bhumibol Adulyadej is fond of jazz and music endeavors. Maybe that’s why there are so many good saxophone players and other instrumentalists and vocalists. They revere him, so they like music, too.
It’s wonderful to witness how much Thai university students, as well as adults, families, couples and singles of all ages, love our American jazz. What a joyful jazz mix that we’re glad to be a part of.
If you can get to the TIJC this year or in the future, consider taking a budget air carrier, bus, train or taxi and make a nice weekend of it. Also remember that Bangkok has some great jazz places, if you know where to look, including Brown Sugar, Smiles and The Living Room at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit.
If you go:
Thailand International Jazz Conference
College of Music, Mahidol University (Salaya campus)
25/25 Buddhamonthon, Sai 4 Rd.
Tel: 02 800 2525-30 Ext 153-154
www.thaiticketmajor.com, www.music.mahidol.ac.th/tijc www.facebook.com/tijc.net
Saxophone Pub & Restaurant Jazz & Blues Pub
3/8 Phayathai Road Victory Monument
Tel:+66 2 246 5472
Brown Sugar Jazz Pub
469 Phrasumen Road Bawornniwes near Wonchat Bridge & Kaosan
Phranakorn, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand
Tel: +66 89 499 1378
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit
The Living Room jazz lounge with groups nightly
250 Sukhumvit Road
Tel: +66 (0) 2649 8888
Jazz Sushi by Saxsociety19
Restaurant and Jazz, operated by Koh Mr. Saxman
Silom Soi 19
Tel:+66 2 635 1799
Smiles Jazz & Bistro
20-20/1, Ruamrudee Village
Soi Ruam Ruedi, Ploenchit Road
Tel:+66 91 780 3171