When Mahidol University’s College of Music played host to the first Thailand International Jazz Conference five years ago, a mere 500 participants turned out to the Salaya campus out in Nakhon Pathom. The organisers didn’t give up though, and the second year saw a doubling in audience numbers to 1,000 and by 2012, that figure had reached a very respectable 3,000 souls.
“If we can achieve 5,000 people, it will be great,” says project manager Noppadol Tirataradol, relaxing with a coffee after last week’s press conference for the fifth TIJC at Starbucks in Big C Sukhumvit 63.
He’s hoping to get near that number of the upcoming festival, which takes place from February 1 to 3 at the college’s Musica Arboretum. The concept this year is “For the Love of Jazz” in celebration of Valentine’s Day and in addition to the usual performances, education activities and jazz solo competition, the 2013 edition will be preceded by a “TIJC Jazz Camp” running from January 28-30.
“The jazz camp is like a workshop and will be facilitated by the Kenny Werner Trio from New York. Pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummers Ari Hoenig are also instructors so we will be bringing the atmosphere of a New York classroom to Salaya,” Noppadol says.
World rated judges from Europe and the US will judge the jazz solo competition, which Noppadol says will be up to international standards but also admits that it may not generate a high level of local interest.
The Kenny Werner Trio will be joined on stage during the performance section of the festival by the Eddie Gomez Trio and Peter Bernstein Trio plus Thai jazz acts The Infinity, Siam Cubano Band, Bangkok Connection, the Ed Zuccollo Trio featuring Nikita Tu-Bryant, Sunny Trio & The Vox and Pomelo Town.
Workshops will be led by Nueng Jakkrawal, Koh Mr Saxman, Pratak Faisupagarn as well as veteran drummer Mangkorn Peekaew, pianist Vinai Sothipan and flautist Tanis Sriklindee.
“I will be talking about the merger between Thai and international music and jazz,” says Tanis, while Vinai will discuss applying jazz to Thai music and improvisation. Mangkorn, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award by the TIJC committee, will look back over his 30 years on the jazz scene.
Now 73, Mangkorn is a drum instructor at Abac and also a session musician.
Thanee Modsanga, jazz lover and editor of GM 2000, will also be hand to discuss the best jazz records.
“My dream would be to have a jazz festival that runs for the bet part of a month,” says Noppadol. The first week would be a camp with international musicians, the second week would be an international competition, and the third week would be devoted to performances.”
Perhaps one day but, in the meantime, Noppadol has to think about balancing the books.
“Even if we don’t manage to draw 5,000 this year, the number of hardcore fans is definitely improving so we are confident we will achieve the breakeven point in the next few years,” he says. “Of course, we are still losing money but less than in the first year.”
“Our aim remains the same though: to be the spearhead of the higher arts, which is far more important than commercial success.
“But even the Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia receives support from the government and many sponsors, meaning it can draw 30 to 50 artists from around the world. We can’t do that because we lack that kind of support.”
Asked whether the festival’s venue, which is quite a long way out of Bangkok, could be partly responsible for the low turn out, Noppadol nods.
“It’s unavoidable. People think Salaya is far. But our dean, Dr Sugree Charoensook, says that we need to encourage people to come here because we want Salaya to be a centre for the country’s art and culture. If they are interested in art and culture, then they will be willing to come,” he says.
All that jazz
<< Tickets cost Bt2,000 or Bt500 for one activity each day. They’re available at Thai Ticket Major. Call (02) 262 3456 or visit to www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.
<< The jazz camp fee ranges from Bt5,000 to 7,000. Contact the university (02) 800 2525 extensions 153-154 and visit www.TIJC.net.