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The COMPASS Group > September 2013


Richie Beirach

2013 Taichung Festival Artists Spotlight

Richie Beirach brings classical-influenced jazz stylings to Taichung

Words by Douglas Habecker
Translated by Angel Pu

Every year, music fans with great anticipation await news of the Taichung Jazz Festival's international line-up of artists. Given the outstanding performers--including living jazz legends--that have taken to the Festival's stages over the years, it might seem difficult to wow the crowds year after year. Fortunately, the well of accomplished jazz musicians from across the globe remains deep, as can be seen by the schedule for this year's Oct. 19-27 Taichung Jazz Festival.

One artist that music lovers won't want to miss this year is American jazz pianist and composer Richie Beirach. Described by Allmusic.com as a "consistently inventive pianist whose ability to play both free and with lyricism makes him an original", Beirach is a vastly-experienced musician whose earliest piano training was classical. However, at the age of 13, he became entranced by jazz after hearing Red Garland's version of "Billy Boy" from the Miles Davis album "Milestones". "I could hardly believe it. This was exactly what I was looking for, what I needed. Until then, I had only had a classical musical education: Mozart, Beethoven, no improvisation," he is quoted as saying. "I took the album to my teacher. He hated it, he hated it a lot…."

Despite his piano teacher's unenthusiastic response, Beirach in the mid-'60s began playing clubs in New York City, often with the likes of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Konitz. He then studied a year at Berklee College of Music before transferring to Manhattan School of Music, where he received a degree. Over the years, he has played with a number of bands and artists, including Stan Getz's band and the band Quest that he co-founded in the '80s when, increasingly, he focused on solo piano work. He has recorded dozens of solo and group albums and today is known for playing both standards and original compositions with intensity and an individualistic style influenced by Art Tatum, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and his classical music training.

This latter influence has sent Beirach in innovative new jazz directions. His 2002 release "No Borders", for example, uses classical pieces as a basis for improvisation. This approach was also taken in his cooperation with violinist Gregor Hubner. The two teamed up with bass player George Mraz to released three albums under the ACT label: "Round About Bartok", "Round About Federico Mompou" and "Round About Monteverdi", each approaching the namesake composer via improvisation.

Richie Beirach will perform at the Taichung Jazz Festival on October 27 at 8:30 pm on the Main Stage. For more information about the 2013 Taichung Jazz Festival, please visit the official Chinese-English website, www.taichungjazzfestival.com.tw

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