A fine time to fret

A pair of great guitarists and a trio of outstanding organ players will get together for separate jazz summits in Hong Kong this month

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 5:57pm

The first of two notable summit meetings of musicians taking place over the next 10 days is happening at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium on Friday.

Jazz guitarists Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel will be performing as a duo. Neither is a stranger to Hong Kong, but this will be the first time they have appeared together in the city. They released a well-received collaborative CD, The Colonel and the Governor, earlier this year.

The second meeting of musical minds, also at the APA, is a treat for fans of the vintage jazz Hammond organ sound

Taylor is known as one of the finest jazz guitarists of his generation, in both a solo and a band context. He is always worth hearing, whether he's exploring the standards book as an unaccompanied soloist, or performing his own modern take on the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli with his Spirit of Django acoustic group.

Emmanuel is more of a jack of all trades, although a spectacular one. Jazz has long featured in his repertoire, but his inspiration comes equally from pop/rock, blues, and country music, perhaps primarily the late Chet Atkins, another musician who ignored stylistic boundaries: Emmanuel mastered Atkins' demanding right-hand finger-picking technique, and has taken it to a new level of virtuosity.

Atkins compared Emmanuel's mastery of harmonics - bell-like tones which can be produced on a guitar by lightly touching a string instead of fretting it - to that of the late Lenny Breau, another picker who blended elements of jazz, country and classical music in a surprising yet harmonious way.

That technique features prominently on The Colonel and the Governor, where Taylor and Emmanuel had well-executed fun with standards familiar to both, alongside a few Taylor originals. Their styles blend well but then again, they both admired Atkins, and recorded duets with him.

Emmanuel and Taylor will also hold a workshop on Saturday at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA) from 4pm. Call 3575 9868 for details.

The second meeting of musical minds, also at the APA, is a treat for fans of the vintage jazz Hammond organ sound pioneered by musicians such as Wild Bill Davis, Jimmy Smith, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, and Brother Jack McDuff.

On October 21, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Amphitheatre at the APA, Singapore-based jazzman Jeremy Monteiro will convene an international "Jazz Organ Summit" where he will perform with Tony Monaco from the United States and Italy's Alberto Marsico - all masters of the jazz organ.

Helping out will be two more Americans, drummer Shawn Kelley and saxophonist Shawn Letts; guitarist Eugene Pao; and from the Philippines, vocalist Charito.

Marsico comes from Turin and was inspired by McDuff. He cites a McDuff workshop he attended in 1994 in Genoa as a career turning point, and the older musician has since returned the compliment by recording his tunes and telling him, "Alberto, you got Hammond blood", which became the title of his first CD in 1994.

Monaco's mentor was Smith, who he first heard perform at the age of 12. He is also indebted to contemporary jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco for a major career break when DeFrancesco offered to produce his debut CD, Burnin' Grooves, in 2000.

The album was a hit, and Monaco went on to collaborate with guitarist Pat Martino as a member of his trio, and to release several more albums under his own name, maintaining a hectic schedule as both a touring musician and a music educator, also producing a series of instructional DVDs.

Monteiro is well known internationally as a pianist, composer and bandleader, but also has a longstanding love of the jazz organ sound, and has featured the instrument extensively recently in concert and on his recordings.

This should be a great night of bluesy organ jazz. Showtime is 8pm and tickets are from HK Ticketing.

Take Three

One recommended album from each of the organists featured in the Jazz Organ Summit.

  • Celebration: Life Love and Music (2012, Chicken Coup): this is a mixed bag of new and previously released music from Monaco, spread across two CDs, giving a good idea of what to expect from the jazz organist in concert.


  • Organ Logistics (2005, Organic Music): Marsico's debut CD features his own compositions - including Jack-Pot which McDuff covered - as well as his interpretations of Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth and Fats Domino's I'm Walking, among other tunes.


  • Groovin' at Groove Junction (2009, Jazznote Records): Monteiro's Organamix band performing live in the classic 1960s jazz organ trio tradition. High points include covers of Joe Zawinul's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy and Luiz Bonfa's Manha de Carnaval.