Monday, September 16, 2013

Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival 2013

And now something much closer to home: last weekend saw the second installation of Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival, and this time they've managed to secure the venue right here at Universiti Malaya.

I always felt that jazz is something that is quite hard to be appreciated by the masses, so mad props to the organizer for managing to gather all the jazz fans and performers under one roof - it definitely shows that there's an eager crowd for the music. Special thanks to one of my friend who had invited me along to the festival: it was a great exposure to all those jazz acts - hopefully I'll be able to join any future events from these guys!

A bit of side tracking first though: I'm very much ignorant when it comes to the jazz scene  - both local and international - although I could appreciate the element of jazz (improvisation is the keyword!), with it being exciting whether it was relaxing or just keeping you on your toes. And just as with music in general, it's great to see how great the uniting power music has, where the notion of race or belief were put aside. In essence, jazz - and music in general - is the best communicator amongst people, and that's one of the reason why music holds a special place in my heart.

But enough rambling, lets look at the acts that we've managed to catch there:

KLK Quintet

The first act that I've managed to catch - the rest were there earlier to check other acts - were these guys. They're sort of like a supergroup I believe, as Patrick Terback and Marques Young were to perform in other acts as well. 

I was struck with how they do not incorporate any string instrument (besides the piano), with the organ taking up the rhythmic section usually assigned to bass guitar or double bass. Pretty interesting.


The trio (which you might have immediately guessed from the name) from Iran brought some blend of jazz with middle eastern vibe, I like it! At one point they did their jazz take on one of Beethoven's piece, that was a real treat to watch.

Early one in their performance though they had a slight hiccup with their instruments. Watching the pianist and drummer improvising while the bass guitar was being fixed truly show the improvisation element that is ever important in jazz. Now, you'll definitely be tempted to throw a fit if this were to happen in, say, a rock concert, but not so with jazz! Real cool, eh?

KL Jazz Project

Wow, the lineup for this supergroup is crazy! What was interesting is how they brought in some blues element to their performance as well. The sing-along part with the audience was one of the most exciting moments I had out of the whole festival.

UM Big Band: A Jazz Tribute to P. Ramlee

Unfortunately we have only managed to catch the last 2 or so songs at the end of their performance.

Chris Ong & The Color Codes

They had more blues rock vibe going on, as they were performing Going Down in one of their songs. Semi acoustic guitars are a beauty by the way.

Todd Gordon Sings the Frank Sinatra Song Book

Todd Gordon crooned his way through Sinatra's pieces. The hall was packed to the rear, which shows that there's a lot of audience for the late legendary evergreen crooner.

The Carl Orr Quartet

Carl Orr, man. He's definitely putting in emotion in his playing - watching his face twist into various expressions as his fingers work their way on the fretboard was an exciting moment. It's all about the feel man!

With that being said though, his playing can seems a bit overindulgent at times, but that's just jazz improvisation at work I suppose.


I had only managed to catch their last song, as it was raining outside and I had gone out to grab some bites. They were really breaking into a lengthy jam by then. The part where Steve Thornton goes off into his percussion solo was a treat to watch:

Lee Ritenour & Friends

Perhaps awaited by many is the Captainfinger himself, Lee Ritenour. His large body of work is impressive, and his playing shows just why he received quite a good acknowledgement as a jazz guitarist. Besides his playing style, I like his tone - it's so clean, and it further emphasize his dexterous fingers movement on the fretboard.

He's a treat to watch; I should look more into his works in the future.

Kazutoki Umezu Kiki Band

The moment I listened to their mix of jazz and progressive rock, I can safely say that I fell in love with them immediately. I'm a rock music fan at heart, bless, and listening to their music was... it was something close to having a moment of epiphany, you could say. I love these guys.

As I watched them performed, I couldn't help but wonder what is it with Japanese musicians and their energy and showmanship... that would be an interesting topic to talk about, I feel. 

It was definitely a great experience, after experiencing all those loud rock concerts that I'm accustomed to. As I've said before, jazz is definitely a refined taste, but I felt that it's something relaxing yet at the same time able to pull you in if you direct your mind towards how the musician improvise through their piece.

I hope they'll be able to keep the festival going for years to come; their effort to really bring in all the jazz fans together is heartening, and it's something that even casual music fans as myself could relate with. 

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