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Rollin' on the river

The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Fourplay cap a great weekend of jazz at Asiatique

Last weekend's River Jazz Festival at Bangkok's new Asiatique the Riverfront was packed with performances by talented artists both local and foreign, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra's first appearance in Thailand.

Songs composed by His Majesty the King featured prominently in a set led by saxophonist Sekpol "Koh Mr Saxman" Unsamran, mostly with lyrics sung in French. Other Thai performers were rising star Keeta "Foam" Vongkittipat and the always-popular Ben Chalathit.

Her Royal Highness Princess Somsawali was in attendance on the first day, and part of the proceeds from ticket sales from the weekend went to Mahidol University's Sayamindradhiraj Medical Institute.

The foreign acts offered three different styles of jazz. There were big-band classics by the Glenn Miller Orchestra on Day 1 (along with the King's "HM Blues"), easy-listening bossa nova by Lisa Ono and the contemporary jazz by Fourplay, which brought the weekend to a thrilling close.

Foam and her back-up bassist and drummer, together known as Foam Forte, performed "A Rainy Day in Tokyo", the bossa nova "Price Tag" and her new song "Shining Star".

Next up was Koh Mr Saxman, supported by the five-member Takeshi Band, impressing the crowd with his powerful solos and improvisation on many covers and his own "Samui".

The tribute to HM the King had "Falling Rain" sung by Pornthipa Thavornbutr and "Blue Day" by Premika Sujaritkul, who said she'd recently sung the royal tunes in French in Paris.

"Thailand's Got Talent" winner Myra Molloy and her younger sister Nina did a nice job on "Falling Rain" in Thai.

Day 1's most outstanding set came from the Glenn Miller Orchestra, carrying on the tradition of its namesake founder, lost and presumed killed on a European flight toward the end of World War II. The 16-piece band presented 23 songs, including classics like "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade".

Joining the band were the Swing Kittens, the female vocal group in the tradition of the Andrews Sisters. The singers dressed in US Army Air Force uniforms as a tribute to Miller and sang such hits as "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree".

The songs are all famous, but it still would have been nice if organiser Maximage had projected the titles on the stage screens to help folks less familiar with the repertoire.

There was little cause for complaint, though, when a barrage of elaborate fireworks lit up the sky above the Chao Phraya River.

On Day 2, straight from performing at Pattaya's Overlove festival the previous night, Ben Chalathit had a fresh audience of 2,000 people enraptured with his smooth jazz renditions of such songs as "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight", "Morning" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine".

The genre-jumping singer also performed "Kon Kanglang" ("The Person Underneath"), "Oy Oy" ("Ouch!"), "Luek Sudjai" ("Far Deep in My Heart") and the His Majesty's "Sang Duen" ("Magic Beams").

Lisa Ono "the queen of Asian jazz" made her third Bangkok appearance, opening her set with "Pretty World" to loud cheers from her fans, many of them Japanese. She also performed "Goody Goody", "Beyond the Reef", "Jambalaya" and several bossa nova tunes like "Girl from Ipanema".

She wrapped up with "Sai Chon" ("Stream"), the Thai track from her 2010 album "Asia". She couldn't quite master the difficult lyrics, but her effort won loud applause.

Fourplay - Bob James on keyboards, Nathan East on bass, Harvey Mason on drums and Chuck Loeb on guitar - wowed the already dwindling crowd with their world-class instrumental talents. With 12 albums to plumb, they came up with "Chant", "Westchester Lady", "Pineapple Getaway", "101 Eastbound", "Fortune Teller" and "Steps in It" - and then gave "December Dream" what Nathan called its world premiere. It's supposed to be on the new album in September.

Nathan added his customary wai when Fourplay bowed low at the end of their set. It had been a night to remember, entertaining throughout despite the heat and frequent lightning later on. Except for a few drops, though, the rain stayed away.


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