Jazz & Blues
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Hong Kong gigs

Sax assault: four top jazz saxophonists play Hong Kong in a week

Dave Liebman, Li Gaoyang, Andy Scott and Bob Mintzer set to serve up a feast of horn playing, with the latter pair leading workshops and masterclasses too

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 2015, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 2015, 10:54pm

Fans of great jazz saxophone playing are in for a treat. Three major international players - plus a prodigy on the instrument from China - are all in town, and several gigs have been organised.

On Saturday night at 7.30pm, the Dave Liebman Quintet will appear at Kitec in Kowloon Bay, featuring on saxophones both Liebman and Li Gaoyang. The latter, still only 21, is regarded almost as a veteran of the Chinese jazz scene, having first made his mark when he joined the Yinjiao Big Band as a tenor saxophonist in 2009.

Li has since delivered well-received performances in concert halls, and at jazz clubs and festivals, on the mainland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Denmark. He is an assured and interesting young player, but Liebman, at 68, really is a veteran and has been an acclaimed soloist since taking on high-profile gigs with Elvin Jones and Miles Davis in the early 1970s.

Musicians he has collaborated with since, either as a sideman or a bandleader, include drummers Bob Moses and Jack DeJohnette, guitarists John McLaughlin, John Scofield and Pat Metheny, pianist Kenny Kirkland, saxophonists Pee Wee Ellis and Michael Brecker, and many more.

The Nordic rhythm section, with which he and Li will appear on Saturday, comprises drummer Anders Mogensen and keyboard player Carl Winther, both from Denmark, and bassist Johnny Aman from Finland.

Some of the crowd for that show may be coming over from Andy Scott's Sax Day, at Megabox, also in Kowloon Bay, a one-day seminar for saxophonists organised by the Hong Kong Big Band Jazz Federation and presented by Scott, with Bob Mintzer as a special guest.

Depending on how many players it attracts - not to mention how good they are - that day has the potential for cacophony, but the three nights of concerts at City Hall, presented under the Summer Jazz Festival 2015 banner, featuring Scott and Mintzer, are safer prospects - and you don't have to be able to play the sax to attend.

British musician Scott is a noteworthy saxophonist and composer, equally at home in jazz and classical contexts, and leads several sax-focused ensembles.

Mintzer plays with, and composes for, numerous ensembles but is probably best known as a member for the past 20 years of the Yellowjackets. He has also played at various times in big bands led by Tito Puente, Buddy Rich and Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, and worked with Art Blakey, Gil Evans and Jaco Pastorius among many others.

Bringing Mintzer and Scott to Hong Kong at the same time is something of a coup for the Hong Kong Big Band Jazz Federation, particularly since this week, from Wednesday to Friday, they are also presenting a jazz academy programme of rehearsals, masterclasses and workshops at the University of Hong Kong. "An additional reason for inviting Bob Mintzer and Andy Scott to Hong Kong is that, unlike many artists, they don't just do the concert and fly home," says Jon Rebbeck, joint artistic director of the festival with founder Taka Hirohama. "They provide guidance and education through a series of workshops, which compliments the festival mission of giving something back to the music community."

On Sunday at 8pm at City Hall Concert Hall, a programme composed by Scott and Mintzer will be performed with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. Rebbeck describes this first concert as "an interesting programme of 'crossover' works which also incorporates the rhythm section of Yoyong Aquino, Sylvain Gagnon and Anthony Fernandez".

And the next night, also at 8pm but in City Hall Theatre, will feature "the Hong Kong version of Sax Assault" with Scott, Mintzer and seven other saxophonists performing jazz funk originals.

The final concert on June 9, also at City Hall Theatre at 8pm, features Mintzer with the Saturday Night Jazz Orchestra in a retrospective programme through his career.

Take Three

A trio of noteworthy albums featuring the jazz saxophonists visiting Hong Kong this week.

Visitation (2014, ArtistShare): the third and current album by Saxophone Summit, featuring Liebman, Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane. Their distinctive individual voices and well-developed interplay are supported by Phil Markowitz on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Billy Hart on drums. Each member of the band contributes one original composition.

Sax of Gold (2007, Sax Assault): Scott leads his multiple saxophone big band Sax Assault through a set dominated by his compositions. Mintzer guests on tenor, and Gwilym Simcock plays piano.

For the Moment (2012, MCG Jazz): the Bob Mintzer Big Band explores Brazilian musical territory with Peter Erskine on drums and Mintzer's Yellowjackets colleague Russell Ferrante on piano.