Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Jazz wraps up with high hopes

Evi Mariani and M. Taufiqurahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It was a promise fulfilled for music lovers who came to the Java Jazz Festival, as top-notch performers executed powerful shows, leaving behind an afterglow among concertgoers that will last for days to come.

Large crowds, mainly young people, enjoyed the last night of the three-day festival on Sunday, dancing, screaming and shouting to songs delivered by several big names of music.

Rhythm & Blues crooner Eric Benet turned up for an early evening show, his second, to the delight of female fans.

Sporting a black trouser, white silk shirt and a tie, the heartthrob won screams for his sensitive sounding song and also for his alluring moves which included taking off his tie and shirt on stage. The highlight of Benet's performance was when he invited Indonesian singer Ruth Sahanaya to join him onstage. Ireng Maulana was among several other local artists playing to a packed audience.

Piano-playing singer George Duke also drew a huge crowd for his second appearance for his dynamic piano playing.

Both artists and jazz lovers said they would relish the chance of another jazz festival next year.

"I hope that I can come back to this festival year after year," former bass player of fusion band Casiopea Tetsuo Sakurai said, after performing on one of the main stages at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) in Senayan, Central Jakarta.

Tetsuo and his band received a roar of applause for every composition they delivered. Previously, the enchanting Laura Fygi said that she would surely be back if invited.

Jakarta hosted its first international jazz festivals since the late 1980s to 1990s, but financial difficulties led to a gap of several years.

Jazz lovers however expressed hopes that organizers would learn lessons from this year's festival. Shortcomings in scheduling performances and sound system arrangements contributed to several shows being postponed as blaring music from one performance would drown out others being held at other JCC venues.

"I came to the festival three days in a row, and I got confused with the schedule for the performances," one fan said. "I have a hectic schedule, so I was later disappointed to find that I had wasted time waiting for some of the performances."

However, he said the festival was on par with those staged in Europe for the quality of the lineup, the stages as well as sound systems. Another concertgoer, Reza, said despite the let-downs, "Staging this event takes a mammoth effort -- I have to applaud them."

Fans, many of them who left with souvenir hats, T-shirts and bags, had been treated to a wide choice of performers from many nations -- including James Brown, Incognito, George Duke, Tania Maria and many others.

Organizers are already planning next years festival.

Festival executive director Paul Dankmeyer said he would like to see artists such as Michael Franks, Diana Krall and Norah Jones at the next event.

Among the performers on late Saturday, Earth, Wind and Fire Experience got a warm reception from the audience who sung along word for word their hits, Let's Groove and After the Love Has Gone. The two most notable features of the band were their flawless horn harmonies and funk guitar licks adorning every tune.