Alessandro Galati trio's gig caps Jazz World Live Series 2014
Hong Kong plays host to two essential jazz gigs this week: the Hong Kong debut on Tuesday of Alessandro Galati and his trio at Youth Square Y-Theatre in Chai Wan, and the launch on Thursday of Blaine Whittaker's Strange Universe album at Backstage Live.
The Galati concert is the finale of the Jazz World Live Series 2014, an ambitious programme devised by Jazz World's Clarence Chang which began in January, and saw at least one performance by an international jazz artist in each of eight months of the past year.
Four Jazz World gigs were staged in October. One of the few blanks was November, because Chang decided not to compete with the North Sea Jazz Festival, which was scheduled to take place from November 14 to 16 in Hong Kong - but cancelled.
Chang's choice of the Galati Trio to close the 2014 series reflects his personal love of Italian piano jazz, but the other artists he presented this year addressed a broad palette of tastes.
In February we had the Larry Carlton Trio; in April the Robben Ford Band; in June the duo of Max Ionata and Dado Moroni; in September Hiromi Uehara's Trio Project and The Oz Noy Trio; and in October The Eddie Gomez Quartet, Masters of Bass, the Dominic Miller Band, and the Alex Sipiagin Quintet.
It's likely that not all of those performances made money and, in addition to guitarist Miller, there were some diversions into areas of music some distance from jazz, which were presumably intended to subsidise some of the loss-making gigs. However, Chang is a man of diverse tastes and he obviously also likes these artists - singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop in July, rock band The Aristocrats in August, pop instrumentalists guitarist Kotaro Oshio and ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro in September.
Chang has earned a finale he will particularly enjoy. Italian pianists who have featured in past Jazz World Series concerts, apart from Moroni, include Danilo Rea, Enrico Pieranunzi and Giovanni Mirabassi. Chang describes Italian jazz as "the main dish" at the Jazz World CD shop on Wellington Street.
"Alessandro was one of the first Italian pianists I discovered back in the mid-1990s," he recalls. "I picked up a copy of his first CD, Traction Avant, in Tokyo, because it has beautiful cover art and a great rhythm section with Palle Danielsson on bass and Peter Erskine on drums."
It was an excellent CD, defining the classic Italian sound that has been further developed by the likes of Pieranunzi and Rea, Chang says.
"Alessandro has released a new CD, Seals, with his new trio featuring two young Italians, Gabriele Evangelista on bass and Stefano Tamborrino on drums. This is the line-up Alessandro will bring for his debut concert in Hong Kong."
Chang has followed Galati's career closely, and seized the opportunity to bring him to Hong Kong. The trio will go on to further gigs in Macau, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing.
Born in Florence in 1966, Galati has an international reputation, and has worked with a long list of well-known jazz artists including vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, saxophonists Steve Lacy, Lee Konitz and Steve Grossman and trumpeters Enrico Rava and Paolo Fresu.
Meanwhile, artists for the first two concerts of the Jazz World Live Series 2015 have already been confirmed.
On January 22, guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel will play the Arts Centre's Shouson Theatre with two thirds of the Brad Mehldau Trio - bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard.
Then on February 6 at the Hong Kong Baptist University's AC Hall, Larry Carlton will return, this time in a duelling-guitar format with Toto member and fellow session ace Steve Lukather.
Three more albums featuring the piano playing of Alessandro Galati.
- G Plays G (2008, JazZMUD): alone at the piano, Galati tackles George Gershwin, with selections including a good chunk of Porgy and Bess, as well as standards such as Someone to Watch Over Me, I Got Rhythm and How Long Has This Been Going On, plus some Gershwin-inspired originals.
- Unstandards (2010, Via Veneto Jazz): an elegant five-piece set from Galati, Simone Santini on sax and oboe, Jacob Young on guitar, Ares Tavolazzi on bass and Paolo Vinaccia on drums.
Open (2014, JazZMUD): Galati in the heavyweight company of saxophonist Bob Sheppard, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Peter Erskine on a strong blowing set.