Gigs galore all week

Music fans are spoilt for choice as festival gets under way

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 5:04pm

Fans of live jazz have an enjoyable but potentially exhausting week ahead, as there is something worth catching every day.

The Hong Kong International Jazz Festival 2013 (HKIJF) has its opening party today at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, starting at 3pm. It continues for the next three days, with a late-night show at Backstage Live tomorrow featuring Cameroonian singer Ntjam Rosie and her band, and two nights at City Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday.

James Chadwick only discovered he could sing like Sinatra [when a neighbour] asked him if he could stop playing the same Sinatra record every day
John Robertson, EL grande group

Tuesday will feature Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis' Trio, and a duo of Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo and pianist Alexandre Martins. And on Wednesday, those who enjoy the kind of European jazz championed by Jazz World proprietor Clarence Chang have a difficult choice. Playing at City Hall for the last night of the HKIJF are two fine piano trios, one led by Danish pianist Soren Bebe, the other by Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson, a leading light of the German ACT label which Chang has promoted. By coincidence, Chang has booked the Benny Lackner Trio to play on the same night as Danielsson.

Lackner is a fine young pianist, born in Berlin, who moved to the US at the age of 13. In the late 1990s, he studied with Brad Mehldau, to whom he is sometimes compared. Like the late Esbjorn Svensson, Lackner has developed a modern style of writing for the piano trio, and is influenced by rock as well as jazz.

In Mehldau's words: "Benny Lackner has a distinctive compositional voice that sounds lucid and fresh. He's found a cool way to write for this trio." Lackner will be accompanied by two French musicians: bassist Jerome Regard and drummer Matthieu Chazarenc.

Lackner versus Danielsson is a tough call, but some jazz fans could be swayed by the fact that Chang - perhaps mindful of the competition, but also as a way of thanking the people who have turned out for the Jazz World Live Series concerts this year - has made this a free gig, at the Tom Lee Academy Hall at Mega Box in Kowloon Bay.

Details of the HKIJF can be found at; and more details of the Lackner gig are available at

If you haven't had enough music by mid-week, Thursday night might be a good time to drop into Grappa's Cellar. Appearing that night with the Stray Katz Big Band will be British singer James Chadwick, performing a tribute to Frank Sinatra.

Chadwick is from Sheffield, and apparently has a distinct Yorkshire accent when he speaks, but when he sings he channels Ol' Blue Eyes with astonishing precision.

"For most of his working life James was a bricklayer," says John Robertson, of the El Grande Group which owns Grappa's. "He only discovered he could sing like Sinatra because he used to do so regularly in the bath, until one of his neighbours asked him if he could stop playing the same Sinatra record every day. After that he took a few lessons, and began a new career."

Chadwick and the Stray Katz band will perform at 8pm at Grappa's on October 3 and 5, while he will be performing for diners at Pacific Place restaurant Domani on October 4 from 9pm.

On Saturday, if you still have the energy, you might want to drop into Duddell's in Central which is presenting the Yuri Honing Acoustic Quartet in its Salon and Garden Terrace Space.

Dutch saxophonist Honing, who played here last year with his trio, is known for his original approach to an eclectic repertoire which includes pop tunes. This time he is accompanied by Wolfert Brederode on piano, Gulli Gudmundsson on bass, and Joost Lijbaart on drums. The show starts at 8.30pm.

Take Three

Frank Sinatra didn't call himself a jazz singer, but his phrasing influenced many jazz soloists, and he worked well with jazz musicians. These three albums are good examples of the jazz side of the man they called The Voice.

  • Sinatra-Basie: An Historic Musical First (1962, Reprise): Sinatra's voice and the Count Basie Orchestra arranged by Neal Hefti was a very different proposition to Sinatra singing Nelson Riddle arrangements of torch songs. This is a fine, hard swinging set.
  • It Might As Well Be Swing (1964, Reprise): Sinatra and the Basie band team up again, but this time with arrangements by Quincy Jones. The definitive version of Fly Me to the Moon starts this set.
  • Francis A. and Edward. K (1968, Reprise): Billy May arranged and conducted this set on which Sinatra sang for the first time with the greatest jazz orchestra leader of them all, Duke Ellington and his band.