The reality of Bangkok’s jazz scene is that it is slowly metamorphosing from its post-1997 economic doldrums, but not without a few growing pains. Many of the old staples have failed to adapt, improvise and overcome the changing times. Brown Sugar is still be clinging to reviews it garnered during their halcyon days, and Saxophone has a loyal fan base but invariably lacks the consistency that brings in new repeat customers. The good news is that there are new kids in town and they are bringing a fresh outlook to a stale scene. Niu’s on Silom and the refurbished Mello Yello (formerly Overtone) have picked up some of the slack by catering to the growing sophistication of BKK’s jazz fans while the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit’s The Living Room has made a valiant effort to stay relevant and has become our favorite place to take in a night of jazz, cutting contest included.
The Living Room has actually been around for 10 years and is celebrating with a festival called Jazztastic. While that name sounds like something conjured up by a cruise ship director, these cats can swing. Huge names like two-time Grammy winner Ernie Watts even make appearances from time to time. 18 Karat.
But what KohSpot really loves about The Living Room is the layout. It’s like a living room. Typically in Thailand, or really any country for that matter, would jam as many seats into their performance area as humanly possible when internationally renowned musicians come to town. The Living Room took the opposite approach and sparsely sprinkled seats around the venue creating a laid back yet intimate setting. And these are rich, supple chairs and big, inviting sofas. Beige marble, dim lighting and oversized posters of Art Blakey, Bird and Diz on the walls all add to the sense of genuineness and approachability. This is how live Jazz should be experienced.
Tony Lakatos aka Ballon lungs a sax player from Hungary, is playing with Shawn Kelley aka Tubs on drums, TherdsakWongvichien aka Finger Zinger on bass and David Gomes aka Hot Dog on piano. We made all of those nicknames up. We had never heard of this Lakatos fella, but he wears a porkpie hat and he played Take Five so it turned out he knows how to party.
All performers except Watts cost 1,100 baht including two drinks, while Watts and the Jeremy Monteiro trio costs 1,300 baht including two drinks. Skeptics will point to the cost, but jazz isn’t cheap anywhere in the world. If you go to Brown Sugar or Saxophone you will most likely spend just as much on drinks.
For Jazz fans The Living Room is tough to beat.
Location: Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Road, 2nd floor and connected to the BTS Skywalk at Asok.
Mass transit: BTS Asok and MRT Sukhumvit
Hours: The festival runs from 9 pm-1 am nightly until June 30