All That Jazz: Taiwan's largest jazz festival returns to Taichung
By Douglas Habecker Translated by Ann Lee
If there's one event in Taichung that has been representative of the city's cultural rejuvenation in recent years it is certainly the Taichung Jazz Festival, held each October by the Taichung City Cultural Affairs Bureau. This hugely successful event, now in its sixth consecutive year, is not only the largest annual jazz festival on the island but has also attracted a truly world-class lineup of international jazz musicians year after year.
All this makes a great argument for visiting this year's event, taking place over nine days between Saturday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 26. However, most familiar residents and visitors need no convincing, with the 2008 jazz festival expected to draw 300,000 visitors, or 50,000 more than last year. As usual, music lovers can anticipate another outstanding lineup of jazz artists and groups from North America, Europe, Asia and around Taiwan, performing on the main People's Park festival stage for big opening and closing concerts at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and 26, and on the smaller J1 and J2 stages along the adjacent JingGuo Boulevard Parkway the rest of the time.
Once again, the Parkway will also be the site of the festival's other big draw--dozens of vendor booths selling every conceivable type of food and drink, from Thai cuisine to German beer and sausages. Organizers say this year will have more booths than ever, 48 in total, in addition to a special festival souvenir stand and a saxophone exhibition area from Houli township, Taichung county.
A couple special additions are being featured at this year's festival, starting with a world record attempt. All sax players are being invited to register in advance for a "1,000 saxophones" event that will take place on People's Park at 3 p.m. on Oct. 18 and feature a thousand musicians simultaneously playing three songs, including "You Are My Sunshine". If successful, this will break a previous Canadian-held 2004 record for 900 sax players. Registration will continue to Oct. 11, either via an online form available on the official www.jazzfestival.com.tw website, or by calling the Cultural Affairs Bureau at (04) 2372-7311, exts. 359 to 366.
In another big change, the fun will continue uninterrupted between the two main weekends, with live performances and vendor sales from Monday to Thursday on the JingGuo Boulevard and J1/J2 stages each evening from 6-10 p.m. Other special events include a festival-related jazz piano competition and various jazz workshops and speeches, taking place at Chung Yo Department Store and Park Lane Eslite bookstores in the afternoons (see website schedule).
Among the three highlighted international jazz acts at the 2008 festival (see Aug., Sept., Oct. "Taichung Jazz Festival Headliner Series" articles in Compass) is American veteran jazz "supergroup" Trio 3--made up of saxophonist/flutist/bandleader Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Andrew Cyrille--playing at the 7 p.m. Oct. 18 opening concert. The next day, on Sunday night at 7 p.m., Dutch jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Saskia Laroo and her band will perform on the J1 stage. The third headliner, veteran American jazz trombonist Slide Hampton (see p. 49 article in this edition), will play the closing concert on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m., also featuring Japan's Tomonao Hara Quartet.
Last year's festival began a trend a featuring top jazz artists from across Asia and this year's event continues that tradition, with nine acts from around the continent. These include Korea's John Nam, the Barry Likumahuwa Project from Indonesia, Denny Euprasert Sextet from Thailand, Japan's Rhythmatrix, the API band from Malaysia, and Vietnam's Red River Jazz Band. Most of these acts can be found on the J1 and J2 stages from 3 to 7 p.m. both Saturdays and Sundays.
Last but not least are the outstanding local and foreign Taiwan-based jazz artists who will be playing daily throughout the festival (mainly on J1/J2 stages). This broad spectrum of performances will include the Wen Rhythm Jazz Band, Martin Fusion Group, Free Breathing Ensemble, Jambo Fusion Band, and Minda and Her Jazz Friends. From Taichung and central Taiwan are last year's big hit, The Money Shot Horns (J2 stage, Oct. 25, 5:30 p.m.), the Changhua City orchestra, Taichung City Symphony Orchestra, and Taichung Youth Orchestra.