Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hardbop Quintet @ Alexis...

The 20th and 21st of May, marks the first time this band is playing together.. The Bruce Hurn/Julian Chan Hardbop Quintet (featuring Maria Angela on vocals). Our first gig: Alexis Bistro Ampang.

It was an opportunity for me to put up a band that plays mostly jazz repertoire ranging from the 40s - 6os. I wanted to do this for quite a while, but somehow the timing just wasn't there yet. But it definitely came last week. A couple of factors helped me on this. The main one being Bruce Hurn. He's a Canadian trumpet player who's been playing jazz trumpet for a long time, and he's learnt and played the stuff since he was young, so he's very knowledgable with the American jazz tradition. I, on the other hand, have only barely touched the surface of it.

Bruce and I took about two weeks to decide on the songs that we were going to do, and we both split leadership duties: He handles the musical aspects, ranging from arrangements and repertoire, and I do the rest.. usually the administrative and business side of it... and of course, practicing the material!

Finding the band was also a challenge. I needed to find people who will have not only the technique, but the musical impetus to make the music work. I've already decided on getting Justin to play piano from the start. For the drummer and double bass player, I decided to try out John Thomas and Wan Asfarezal, respectively. However, due to some unavoidable circumstances, both John and Wan were unable to make the Friday gig. So, I had to find other guys to do Friday, and have John and Wan for Saturday. After making several calls, and thinking about WHO I can get to play, not only to get the job done, but do be able to move the music as well, I decided on AJ and Joseph Arnesto to play drums and bass, respectively. (YES, my bass player, AJ, also plays drums!).

After finding out all the band members' schedule for last week to arrange for rehearsals, which itself was an arduous task (I had to use an Excel spreadsheet just to do that!), I managed to arrange two rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday.

The music we were to play, were primarily from the Cannonball Adderley songbook, from Work Song, Unit 7, Del Sasser, Our Delight, Blue Daniel, and some more, as well as some bebop tunes, such as Charlie Parker's Confirmation. Maria Angela's tunes were mostly from the Nancy Wilson repertoire, some from the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley album, tunes like Save Your Love For Me, Happy Talk, and Never Will I Marry.

For the Friday gig, with AJ on drums, Joe on double bass, and Justin on piano, the band was absolutely swinging that night. There were a couple of teething problems, as this was our first time playing together in that setup. AJ was actually pretty nervous, because I think it was his first SERIOUS jazz gig on the drums! We also didn't have enough time to work with that band setup. But for most part, the band was really swinging. I was absolutely surprised with AJ, and how he took his role as the drummer seriously, and he played what was required with the music for that night.

On Saturday, there were also a few teething problems during the show, mostly from the music arrangements. John was on drums, and Wan on bass. The show also went pretty well that night. However, towards the end of the last set, there were some people who tried to request for some tunes or wanted to jam with the band, at very short notice. As I've learned again, it's usually not worth entertaining when it's on short notice, and sometimes turns out rather disastrous, as it was. Luckily, by that hour, most of the audience had left, as it almost went a little later than it should. An exception was having indonesian pianist Eddy Sambuaga to jam with us. We already knew Eddy, so it was fun to have him jam with us a tune. He basically tore up Confirmation, a very, VERY fast bebop tune, that night.

I think, overall, the gig went very well. And I'm really happy with how the band and the music turned out. I could only do it, mostly because Bruce is in the band, as he's the one with the most experience and knowledge AND the playing ability to do it. As most of us musicians in KL are only "second-hand" students of the music, Bruce isn't. So it was really refreshing to hear someone who can play like that in KL. The other interesting thing is, I doubt that there's really any other band in town who has attempted playing this material, and of similar vein. I've certainly not seen any, for sure. I'm sure there are many people who are at least familiar with the bebop and hard bop era of jazz, but I'm pretty sure they've not seen anyone in KL really attempt playing that music. A short term goal, I would think I have, is to really present that music to the people in KL, and to present a very important historical aspect in the musical development of jazz. It also serves to illustrate that there's more to jazz (and something closer to the historic pivotal aspect of the music) than Michael Buble, Norah Jones, Joss Stone, or god forbid, Kenny G! They aren't even really jazz, mind you!

I'm looking forward to the next gig with the Hardbop Quintet!

I'm looking forward to have you in our company to appreciate the music, too!

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