Beishan International Jazz Festival, China, 19-20 October 2012
It wasn't a scorpion but a tarantella-the frenzied dance once believed to cure victims of tarantula bites-that got the audience jumping. The three-part suite, entitled "Bachtarantellato" summed up everything that the Luca Ciarla quartet offers up to its God of music-Bach, jazz and gypsy folk melodies, in an emotive, swirling concoction that might just have awakened any dormant spirits residing in the nooks and crannies of the old theater and temple buildings. Ciarla added the underemployed kazoo to his armory to nice effect, but it was the heady quartet sound that charged the air, and that was surely carried home in the heads and hearts of the enthusiastic, appreciative audience. The encore saw Butterscotch join the band in a light-hearted, though animated romp through pianist Herbie Hancock's 1964 standard "Cantaloupe Island."
The BIJF is still a baby, but something of a precocious one. This young Chinese audience was clearly open to all the music on offer, and it enjoyed a wide cross section of jazz, stretching from its early incarnations as dance and Broadway-inspired popular music, through the revolution that was bebop to more modern urban rhythms beloved of a younger generation. In addition, the Beishan Theater reverberated to the cross-pollination of jazz with world folk music, and left-field jazz-rock, which, whilst not at all resembling the first wave of jazz-rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s, nevertheless shared a similar spirit of adventure.
If, after two rather eclectic days' music, the Chinese festival goers, aged 18-25 in the main, were left scratching their heads as to what exactly jazz is, they needn't worry-so is almost everybody else. All jazz's styles since the beginning of the 20th century can be heard today in concert, all over the world. There is much overlapping of styles and there should be room for all.
Jazz is perhaps most simply defined as an approach to making music, with whatever tools are at hand. The Beishan jazz audience seems to appreciate that. Its open-mindedness and enthusiasm for the music is probably the biggest factor that will draw all manner of musicians to play here in the future, thus ensuring the continued growth of this wonderful little festival.
Tweet: "Thanks Beishan for giving me two wonderful days!"