Khamis, 21 November 2013

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Kelly Clarkson pregnant with first child


Singer announces news on Twitter.

POP singer Kelly Clarkson is pregnant with her first child, the 31-year-old Grammy winner announced on Twitter on Nov 19. "I'm pregnant!!! Brandon and I are so excited! Best early Christmas present ever :)," Clarkson tweeted. 

Clarkson, the first contestant to win the Fox singing competition American Idol, married talent manager Brandon Blackstock in October. The Texas-born singer is one of the most successful winners of the show, having crossed over from country to pop music with hits such as Since U Been Gone and Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You). 

Clarkson is the stepmother to Blackstock's two children from a prior marriage. – Reuters

Penang jazz fest sets the standard


Ten years on, the Penang Island Jazz Festival continues to build a future with its bold programming.

"LET'S hope there won't be any English weather in Penang the next time I come back," said bespectacled British jazz guitarist Martin Taylor, with a chuckle, after his hearty set at last year's freakishly rain-soaked Penang Island Jazz Festival. The good news is Taylor makes a swift return to the Penang Island Jazz Festival next month.

The 57-year-old musician is booked alongside Scottish jazz singer Alison Burns to celebrate the festival's 10th anniversary edition, which runs from Dec 5-8, at The Bayview Beach Resort Gardens, Batu Ferringhi. The British duo is just one of the highlights (11 artistes) at the festival's two-day Jazz By The Beach main stage programme (Dec 7-8), which promises an inspired 10th anniversary line-up of acts from Europe, Asia, United States and the homegrown front.

In fact, since PIJF's inception in 2004, the independent festival has served as an umbrella for a diverse range of jazz strands and beyond.

This year also sees a bonus pre-festival concert, featuring American pop jazz singer Casey Abrams and singer-songwriter Liyana Fizi, taking place at the Grand Ballroom, The Bayview Beach Resort Gardens on Dec 5. That stand-alone gig is a sweetener before the actual PIJF main stage concerts (which start on Dec 7) at the venue's outdoor space.

The musical traditions of jazz, still predictably remain a large part of the festival's identity. The welcoming sight of families, friends and jazz enthusiasts is synonymous to this fest.

Under the garden lights at the outdoor PIJF venue, pianist-singer Freddy Cole – the younger brother of Nat "King" Cole – can be counted on to bring back the romantic era of jazz. You can't go wrong with ballads, bossa nova and a side of family roots.

The 82-year-old jazz veteran, with his three-piece backing band, is still a vibrant performer to attract a crowd on Dec 7.

For a programme of gold-plated standards, Alison Burns and Martin Taylor in tandem is another reason to assure punters that the PIJF hasn't lost its crowd-pleasing edge.

Hedvig Mollestad Trio, featuring (from left) bassist Ellen Brekken, frontwoman/guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen and drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad, is a motherlode of riffs and power trio voltage to light up the Penang Island Jazz Festival on Dec 8.

High voltage: Hedvig Mollestad Trio (from left) bassist Ellen Brekken, guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen and drummer Ivar Loe Bjornstad will light up the Penang Island Jazz Festival on Dec 8.

If there is a connection to be made – both octogenarian Cole and the bubbly duo of Burns and Taylor represent the early days of the PIJF where the more conventional side of jazz ensured that festival tickets sold. But running a long-standing festival – and growing an audience – requires more than just the white bread sounds of "jazz lounge" acts.

The PIJF saw the need to transcend the limitations of a "jazz festival" stereotype in this region by moving away from the perceived insularity of the genre's culture and community.

With a little persistance and international networking, the programming at PIJF pushed the boundaries – year by year. Supporting jazz community activities during the festival period like workshops, exhibitions, Creative Malaysia Fringe Stages, The Island Forum Sessions and others have all helped in changing mindsets.

At any given PIJF editions in recent times, one could discover some of the most progressive and passionate jazz-slanted music on stage – or at a fringe event or workshop.

The upcoming 10th anniversary edition, for instance, is loaded with exciting and intriguing performers to keep PIJF ahead of the festival curve in the region.

The German experimental duo, vocalist Michael Schiefel and pianist Carsten Daerr is raring to leave the masses speechless. Schiefel, who is a jazz educator and composer, had a hand in developing the "Micha-Loop", which records digital tracks which could then be "looped", or repeated over and over, enabling him to build a sound collage. Backed by Daerr's minimalist piano backdrop, Schiefel is out to astound and show us what a single voice can achieve.

Another shift in programming is the absence of prodigious Korean pianists this year. The emphasis is more on a Korean sound crossing the line between contemporary and traditional music. Yoon Jeong Heo, who plays the geomungo (black zither), will explore this traditional Korean instrument's future as well as its past at the festival.

Newcomers to this Korean instrument can brace themselves for a throbbing, percussive, cello-like onslaught.

When it comes to powerhouse groups, the PIJF can also boast a solid line-up with Scandinavian jazz rock quintet Jazz Kamikaze (members from Denmark, Norway and Sweden) and Norwegian pocket rocket crew Hedvig Mollestad Trio aiming to introduce Black Sabbath-inspired voltage, fathoms-deep groove music and propulsive drumming.

Jazz Kamikaze, which has played concert dates in the region, can also up its profile with this upcoming PIJF appearance.

Jazz-schooled female guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, hailing from Oslo, has been actively collaborating with the cream of Norwegian music while also being the explosive core of her group.

With two albums Shoot! and All Of Them Witches under the progressive-minded Rune Grammofon label, Hedvig Mollestad Trio is a guitar blitz to stun PIJF.

This bold PIJF statement in programming Jazz Kamikaze as the festival's closing act on Dec 8, while Hedvig Mollestad Trio fires up the evening session on the same day, is likely to attract an entirely new and enthusiastic audience.

The good news is the days of Fly Me To The Moon to send the crowd home are long gone ... and PIJF is all the better for it.

> For more info on the festival schedule and activities, visit Tickets are available now at

Related story:

Penang jazz fest chief on event's 10th year


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