Here's to the weekend
Next weekend looks like being good and varied for jazz gigs, beginning early, if you choose, on Thursday, or on Friday at Le Rideau with two performances by Escalator, which bassist Peter Scherr calls 'a live electronica/groove project featuring Nick McBride on drums, electric guitarist Carl Dewhurst and Phil Slater on trumpet and electronics'.
Past jazz-meets-technology projects of this kind, locally and internationally, have produced results of uneven quality, and this certainly won't be music for acoustic jazz purists, but the participants are high-calibre improvising musicians, and Scherr's projects are usually rewarding precisely because they involve musical risks. The performances begin at 9.30pm and tickets are HK$150 or HK$300 for the show plus dinner.
On Saturday night, the beat goes on with the 13th of the Allen Youngblood Presents Jazz Series at Grappa's Cellar, and a programme featuring South African singer Brigitte Mitchell and Australian guitarist Guy Le Claire, recently back as a Hong Kong resident after a period of living in Sydney.
A fine guitarist and, when in town, one of Hong Kong's hardest working jazz musicians, Le Claire will be backed by drummer Gary DeSilva and bassist Sylvain Gagnon.
Mitchell is usually to be heard at Cafe Deco performing the more mainstream material generally assumed - not always rightly - to be what a dinner crowd wants to hear, but has a solid background as a jazz performer in South Africa and likes to express that side of her musical personality at other gigs.
She was one of the hits at the 8th of Youngblood's Grappa's presentations, and is a welcome return, backed by Paul Candelaria on bass, DeSilva on drums and pianist Yoyong Aquino. Youngblood doesn't always perform at these gigs, but is taking advantage of the return to Hong Kong of another Australian - alto saxophonist Blaine Whittaker, who's back for a few weeks having completed a series of Canto-pop performances with singer Jacky Cheung Hok-yau - to put together a horn-driven lineup which also features Tom Nunan on tenor sax, Mike Kurtz on trumpet, and Ben Pelletier on trombone. Candelaria will be on bass and Larry Hammond on drums.
Much of Youngblood's music for this show will be new, and is shortly to be recorded for a CD. The programme begins at 8pm and tickets, available from the venue, are HK$88 for students or HK$238 including one soft drink.
Darren Sigesmund's concert next Sunday at the Hong Kong Arts Centre is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. It is always gratifying to see a country treating its home-grown jazz as an exportable commodity worth taking seriously, and the Canadians are conscientious in this department.
For this performance they have exported a quintet of their finest musicians. Sigesmund is a gifted composer and trombonist, and the group also features pianist David Braid alongside tenor saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, bassist Jim Vivian and drummer Anthony Michelli.
The group, called Strands, has recorded a CD of the same name.
'My goal was to form a band around self-penned contemporary compositions that would serve as a platform for group improvisation,' Sigesmund says. 'As I composed for this quintet, I wanted to capture some of the rich and varied harmonies that have drawn me to the jazz tradition since I was young.
'I sought to incorporate the many 'strands' or influences that have inspired me after several years of study and travel, whether a cultural tradition such as Argentine tango, a composer such as Wayne Shorter or Bach, or a place such as Scott's Bay, Nova Scotia.
'This quintet assembles musicians who I feel collectively convey the colour, nuance, breadth and passion of the compositions. I chose these musicians based on their playing and also who they are as people. For me, the quality of the person is as important as the quality of their musicianship. They are all extremely passionate players who are very dedicated to their craft.'
The gig begins at 8pm and tickets are available from Urbtix at HK$160 for students and senior citizens and HK$225 for others.