I was in Bangkok on an office retreat. The trip did not start out well: I had a sore throat and the sight-seeing on the day before – while interesting – ended with a bad headache for me. The next morning, I went with a couple of others to MBK centre. But after wandering around for 10 minutes I was completely bored by the endless rows of homogeneous substandard products. Decided once and for all to get out of the place and crossed the overhead walkway at the busiest section of downtown Bangkok. From there I spotted the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre – a contemporary arts museum – and stumbled on to the Sawasdee Jazz Festival!
The Kenny Barron Trio gave a concert the night before which unfortunately I missed. Nonetheless was forfuitous enough to walk into the masterclass session – serendipitous encounters are what make travelling so fun. He said a few things which quite resonated with me e.g. about how the best performance is one that touches people. The audience (mostly Thai jazz musicians or music students) were not shy with questions: “How do you practice?” “When I was younger I take a piece and play it really really fast.” Barron says one of his favourite jazz pianists is Art Tatum and then went on to give us a treat with his interpretation.
The jazz festival was free for the public. The rest of the day was filled with hour-long mini concerts, mostly performed by local jazz ensembles. And that’s quite a long list of ensembles. Even though not all of them were very good I reckon that there’s a much more vibrant home-grown live jazz music scene here in Bangkok than in Singapore.