All jazzed up!

Weekend Glitz | Cara Chen 25 Oct 2019

What kind of music best represents Hong Kong? Some might say Cantonese opera, others Cantopop, but for Alison Friedman, artistic director of performing arts at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, Hong Kong is jazz.

"Nothing can be better than jazz to represent Hong Kong's energy and spirit," she said.

Before the opening of the Freespace building in mid-June, the authority has been hosting monthly outdoor events. The Freespace Jazz Fest will be the first event to be held both indoors and outdoors at Freespace, the Art Park, and Lau Bak Livehouse from November 9 to 10.

The new annual event is set to showcase 30 local and international acts, including both emerging and big-name musicians.

Among the headline acts coming to the SAR are multi-award winner GoGo Penguin, an electronic-and-trip pop-genre jazz band from Manchester, and Grammy award-winner Robert Glasper, who will form part of a trio.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the national jazz orchestra of the United States, will bring iconic American traditional jazz, featuring Hubert Laws, a flutist and saxophonist with a career spanning more than 50 years.

Joining them are Asian Collective, a pioneering collaboration who explore the significance of Asian sound within a jazz context and will be presenting a new improvisational jazz experience.

The ensemble will bring together Japanese sensations May Inoue and Moto Fukushima, Taiwanese Hsieh Minyen and local musicians Bowen Li and Wong Way Down band.

"Jazz comes from local sounds and takes on international trends, transforming it into something unique, while Hong Kong has its local traditions and always brings its influences to the world," said Friedman.

"When jazz artists come to Asia, they go to Shanghai, Shenzhen and Singapore, but always skip Hong Kong. We want to make Hong Kong a must-go destination through the jazz fest."

The festival doesn't just cater to jazz lovers. It also plans to help newcomers develop an appreciation for the music. One event is Jazz for Kids, a workshop introducing jazz to kids.

Hong Kong Ballet will be offering jazz-infused dance performances at the Harbourside Lawn, including an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, set to a jazz score.

Film screenings on the history of jazz will wrap up the event. Enid Farber, who has been the main New York photographer for Jazziz Magazine since 1996, is expected to wow jazz lovers with his work.

While having an annual jazz festival sounds niche, Friedman believes each year will offer something fresh. "Jazz is so diverse with so many crossovers with dance, films, and traditions," she said. "I'm sure we can have 30 years of jazz fest without repeating a theme."

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