After my much needed relaxing trip to Taipei, I have re-affirmed myself as a jazz aficionado, an identity I seem to have lost in the past 3 to 4 years, largely due to the fact there aren't many world-class jazz musicians traveling to HK on a regular basis, unlike the jazz capitol of Asia, Tokyo. But that's not entirely true. I did have the privilege to witness the great Roy Hargrove, Hendrik Meurkens, Dr. John, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco, Dianne Reeves, Joshua Redman, Renee Rosnes live in action.
But I miss the intimate jazz club atmosphere of Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Iridium in New York City, or some of the other great jazz holes-in-the-wall in Washington D.C., e.g. the recently closed U-Topia. It's not the same listening to jazz in the Culture Centre where the audience is very polite and shy rendering the musicians play too polite and shy. That's not to say the musicians don't reveal their true colors. In a setting like the very nurtured and cultured HK auditorium or hall, musicians tend to be as meticulous and careful and courteous, as they do not want to offend the seemingly classical-trained audience. But jazz concerts should be unlike classical concerts. The chemistry between the musicians should spark the interactions between the musicians and the audience. That big part of it is missing in HK. Even in a small jazz setting like Peel Fresco in HK, sometimes I get thrilled by some exceptional fine playing from some musicians, but mostly the performance is formulaic, uninspired and square. This is, of course, not the musicians' fault. It's more like the audience do not know how to appreciate jazz in a small setting.
Needless to say, jazz education in HK is lackluster. The people playing jazz on radio are few and far between. There are very few CD stores that sell serious jazz music. Even HMV's jazz selection has deterioriated tremendously over the years. There's only one jazz program (Jazzing Up on RTHK4) once a week, lasting for one hour. How can you nurture a well-groomed jazz audience with just one hour per week? What songs should you choose? Which artists should be focused?
On that basis, Taiwan is better than HK by several miles. At least they have jazz-oriented cafes. They ahve some locally-produced jazz albums. Their appreciation of jazz is more sophisticated, evidenced by the fact they clap at the right places after solos. After reading some well-written articles by Haruki Murakami (村上春樹), I feel like I am not alone in the jazz listening world.
I will explain/discuss more on the book a later time. But this book reminds me how to listen to jazz. How to appreciate jazz. How to appreciate our surroundings. How to appreciate life. After all, jazz is just that symbolic thing that remind us what life is to me. Jazz is just an intergral part of me.
Without jazz, the air that I breathe is not exactly oxygen!