Hong Kong Arts Festival 2015

Jazz fans, mark your calendars for some top events in 2015 in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 January, 2015, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 January, 2015, 3:09pm

Having taken a look back at 2014 last week, it seems appropriate to look ahead at jazz events scheduled for 2015 - and the year will be getting off to a flying start with gigs from both local and international players.

An event well worth supporting takes place over two nights at Grappa's Cellar on January 16-17 with the Hong Kong Jazz Family Fest 2015. This is an annual fundraiser for the Jockey Club Sarah Roe School, an international institution that supports students with special needs, ranging from profound and multiple complex learning disabilities to autism.

On both nights the music starts at 8pm and goes until midnight. Artists appearing are too numerous to list in full, but will include Allen Youngblood, Jason Cheng, Ginger Kwan, Jennifer Palor, Sybil Thomas, Anthony Fernandez, Bobby Taylor, Brigitte Mitchell, Jezrael Lucero, Ted Lo, Skip Moy, Mark Peter and many more.

The 2015 Jazz World Live Series begins on January 22 with the Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio appearing at the Hong Kong Arts Centre's Shouson Theatre, and continues on February 5 with a quintet fronted by guitarists Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather at the AC Hall of Baptist University.

For this concert, Austrian guitarist Muthspiel appears with one of the hottest rhythm sections in jazz, comprising bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, best known for their partnership in the Brad Mehldau Trio, but who have also collaborated with Pat Metheny and saxophonist Mark Turner. Muthspiel is also a composer, and the chemistry between him, Grenadier and Ballard should be worth hearing.

Carlton and Lukather both enjoy large and overlapping followings in Japan and when Carlton was here last year with his trio, arrangements were made for them both to drop in on their way back from their northeast Asian dates. The duo are among the brightest of the star session guitarists of their respective generations - Carlton is 66 and Lukather 57 - while Lukather is also known as the guitarist for Toto.

The 43rd Hong Kong Arts Festival, which runs from late February to late March, also has a healthy jazz component this year with performances from singers Cassandra Wilson and Bobby McFerrin. Also appearing are vocal group the Barefoot Divas and Pink Martini, each most aptly described as a world music ensemble, but both of which perform some jazz content.

McFerrin defies categorisation as a performer, having made his early reputation with a repertoire which mixed jazz and R&B, prior to enjoying huge success in the pop charts in 1988 with Don't Worry Be Happy. In the early 1990s he embarked on a successful parallel career as a conductor of symphony orchestras.

His Arts Festival performance will feature music from his 2013 Spirityouall album, which looks at traditional black spiritual tunes from a jazz perspective, as well as including other compositions and arrangements in which jazz meets Americana.

As a singer, McFerrin has mapped out a substantial amount of previously unexplored territory for the voice in jazz, and local vocalists will have an opportunity to gain an insight into his extraordinary technique when he conducts a masterclass on March 14 at the Cultural Centre. The class is open to "vocal ensembles and a cappella groups only".

Wilson's programme ties in with a major jazz anniversary this year. Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915, and we can expect to see a fair number of tribute shows and albums dedicated to Lady Day over the coming 12 months.

Wilson's is titled Coming Forth By Day: A Tribute to Billie Holiday and is scheduled for release in February. It will be her debut on Sony's Legacy label, which now releases new recordings but focuses mostly on "deluxe" reissues and will be repackaging parts of Lady Day's discography throughout the year.


Take Three

Three noteworthy albums featuring the rhythm section of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard.

  • Fly (2004, Savoy Jazz): the duo team up with saxophonist Mark Turner to explore the possibilities of a trio without a chordal instrument.
  • Day is Done (2005, Nonesuch): Ballard replaces Jorge Rossy in the Brad Mehldau Trio for a spirited set which includes compositions by Radiohead, Nick Drake, Paul Simon, and John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
  • Ode (2012, Nonesuch): Grenadier and Ballard contribute additional dimensions to an album of Brad Mehldau original compositions.