Travel news - Festivals & events in Thailand
 
JAZZ on a Thai beach

Now in its fourth year, the Hua Hin Jazz Festival promises to be an eye-opening musical celebration.
As a long time royal resort and now a permanent residence of HM the King, there could be no better choice for Thailand's annual Jazz Festival than Hua Hin. It is thanks to the presence of His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej that jazz is no stranger to Hua Hin.

Known internationally as an accomplished jazz musician and songwriter, His Majesty has for decades made the palace of Klai Kangwon the venue for his Saturday late night jazz sessions with musical friends. It seems appropriate, then, that the royal resort should be the setting for Thailand's annual celebration of jazz by the sea. Now entering its fourth year, the Hua Hin jazz festival starts today at 5 pm and already the town is alive with the sound of the kind of music you get when bands are setting up and sound engineers are tweaking the equipment.

Some veterans in the the music biz are hoping it won't be long before the beachside festival will rival the world renowned, lakeside Montreux Festival in Switzerland, but the Hua Hin setting has its own distinctive charm.

The festival was intially conceived by the Hua Hin Hoteliers Club, an association of the town's eight leading hotels. The community-scale, free music event aimed to help promote local tourism and to put Hua Hin on the international map. (Isn't this how Montreux's festival started?)

The first year's event was a public tester rather than a sudden hit. Despite some complaints about the sound quality and the inconvenient distances between its seven stages, the Hua Hin Hoteliers Club was praised for its smart and courageous effort. And before the second festival came up, Heineken took the seat as the event's title sponsor.

With experience, audience feed-back and a larger budget from a sponsor which has seriously linked itself to music events worldwide, the festival in the following years has been polished up and has now been listed as one of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Grand Festivals.

Last year's event drew a reported 20,000 to 25,000 people _ an interesting mix of Bangkok hi sos, politicians, jazz aficionados, students, music industry people and ordinary families as well as tourists from all over the world.

"For our third year, getting over 20,000 visitors was probably an extremely good effort," said Heineken Thailand's commercial director Jeffrey Alan Kimble. "We think the response from the Thai community, the co-sponsors, the TAT, the hotels and the tourists down in Hua Hin was better than expected. There are not many events around that can draw this many people, especially in a small community."

This year the festival, dubbed "Heineken Jazz Festival Hua Hin 2005", promises three evenings that will delight jazz fans with performances by a dozen Thai groups and three international performers. Among them are The Infinity, All Star Jazz, Denny & Friends, Stone Head, Crescendo and Apartment Khun Pa from Thailand as well as two time Grammy Award winner John Pattitucci from New York, Cannonball from Australia and Randy Cannon from Seattle.

Although there are fewer foreign jazz artists performing this year, Kimble said that it was not the number that counts but the quality.

"For this year we think if we are going to have international artists let's get a little bit closer to what people would consider to be original or true jazz," he said. "And if you look at John Pattitucci, he is one of the leading original performers in the world having won two Grammys and been nominated for 15 Grammys. He is a household name among jazz lovers. He is a headliner. I think this is the first time a Grammy winner will perform in Hua Hin."

Kimble also noted that, as the organiser, he wants to emphasise that the Hua Hin jazz festival is a Thai jazz festival with international stars _ not an international festival.

The venue in downtown Hua Hin stretches from the beach along Damnernkasem road to Pone Kingpetch Park. There will be only two main stages where big names perform this year: the park stage at the Pone Kingpetch Park and the beach stage in front of the Sofitel Central Hua Hin hotel. A smaller stage at the 200-table beer park at the end of the street will feature low-key jazz artists and DJs. Along the strip are food and drinks stalls, activities booths, arts and crafts stores, foot massage services and several music workshops.

The overall event is guaranteed to be better than ever, with a superb sound system, nicely set concert venues, a huge video screen and a unified performing concept.

"Having a concert with world class musicians on a beach is a little bit difficult because it's windy, there's lots of sand, lots of water, you don't know what's going to happen," said Kimble. "We've really put a lot of effort and a lot of our budget to make sure that the quality of the equipment and the sound is the same as the quality of the musicians that we have here."

Kimble also added that to make things go as smoothly as possible for the audience, a large video screen has been installed at the beer park. "We've tried to connect everything a little bit better this year because there are three different locations and it's nice to know what is happening at all three of them," Kimble said, adding that the video screen will show all of the action from the beach stage. "If you want to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a beer you can still follow what's going on at the beach stage"

And his last words for the the audience?

"There is going to be a big surprise just like every year. Keep your eyes open."

KEY PLAYERS

John Pattitucci
-John Pattitucci is a world-class jazz artist who will perform for the first time in Thailand this year. A New York native, John has won many magazine's reader's polls for his electric and acoustic bass playing, including Best Jazz Bassist in Guitar Player magazine for several years and Best Jazz Bassist in Bass Players magazine.

Since 1985, his association with Chic Corea has brought him worldwide acclaim and put him at the forfront of the jazz world. His six solo recordings and subsequent recordings have brought him two Grammy Awards and another 15 Grammy nominations.

Most recently, he has been involved with Herbie Hancock's latest project due out later this year and has performed in concerts with The John Scofield Trio and Roy Hayenes' Birds of a Feather group featuring Kenny Garratee and Nicholas Payton.



Eddie Autobahn

-A member of the Autobahn recognised by his heart-melting voice in well-known love songs such as Thon Dai Thon Pai and Khon Chao Nam Ta, Eddie is a gifted guitarist and singer who has also been a regular at the Hua Hin jazz festival.

"From the year it started, the festival keeps improving. I believe that in the future it has the potential to be world class. It just depends on several factors. If everything is going at full capacity it shouldn't take longer than 10 years. We already have a satisfying sound system and high quality musicians. It's just a matter of public support."

This year Eddie will perform as guest artist in Jirapan's Blue Sapphire band presenting his original songs he wrote himself. "No more Thon Dai Thon Pai for the audience," he said with a chuckle.



Koh Mr Saxman

- Famed for his mellow and sensational tunes, Sekpol Unsamran aka Koh Mr Saxman is one of Thailand's best known new generation saxophonists.

Music runs in his blood. His father, who was also his music instructor, introduced him to music at a very young age. With his talents, Koh became a professional musician at 15, subsequently winning many music contests.

Koh was also a founding member of a contemporary Thai band, Boy Thai. The success of Boy Thai gradually made him one of the most sought-after studio musicians, having backed many big names in the Thai music scene including "Bird" Thongchai and Asanee-Wasan.

In 2002, his debut album, Mr Saxman, brought him nationwide acclaim and put him in the limelight of the Thai music industry. At the same time the song Pavana, which topped several music charts, revealed his talent as a singer.

Having joined Hua Hin jazz festival from year one, Koh promises to satisfy the audience with captivating tunes from his 2004 album Sax Appeal, among other numbers.



Mansri
-Mansri is a group of four music instructors _ Chanutr Techatananan, Pisuth Prathepasen, Dome Hayodom and Nu Wuthichai _ from Silpakorn University's Faculty of Music. Considered by local veteran musicians and respected songwriters as rising stars of Thai jazz, all band members graduated with a music degree in jazz and are behind many popular songs and background music in several TV commercials.

For this year's Hua Hin fest, Mansri promises to light up the town with its contemporary, straight ahead jazz.



Jirapan Ansavananda

- Jirapan Ansavananda is a locally respected musician who has walked down a long musical road for over 30 years. His songs created in the name of Butterfly, then a new-age musical group also consisting of Surasee Ithikul and Krit Chokethippatana, are still remembered by people all over the country.

A Berklee College of Music graduate, Jirapan has produced numerous works by sharing his musical talent and imagination through songs with many artists.

A regular listener at the Hua Hin festival, he said it's very important for Thailand to have a jazz festival. "Singapore has [its own jazz festival]. So we really need to be competetive at the regional level," he said.

In town as an artist this year, Jirapan and his Blue-Sapphire band are guaranteed to delight music lovers with sweet, easy listening pop-jazz tunes from his latest album, How I Love You.



Prode Thanapat
- Thanapat Mathayomchand, better known as Prode, is a passionate jazz fan and a stellar jazz guitarist outclassing many world-class players with his fusion jazz style and depth of musical knowledge.

Inspired by good old rock'n'roll, he went to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston where he was taught by the likes of Gary Burton, John Scofield, John Abercrombie and Charlie Banacos. After school he toured the US performing with many famous artists including Grammy Award winner Lisa Fisher, Barry White and Kool and the Gang. After 13 years in the States, Prode returned to Thailand where he began teaching jazz, performing and releasing his solo album, Prode, a collection of original jazz tunes he wrote and produced himself. This year is his second year performing at Hua Hin Jazz festival. He is also one of the highlight artists at the event.
Bangkok Post June 4 2005 www.bangkokpost.com
VANNIYA SRIANGURA

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