Sunday, April 30, 2006
Anyway, I'll be off to Taiwan in a couple of hours for the Jonathan Lee Concert Tour. Wish us luck, but we'll be having quite a bit of fun over there, for sure. I'll write in when I can, and IF I get internet access.
Looks like there'll be some sight-seeing and some serious eating involved, but I think we're staying at Sheraton Taipei, so this means a nice gym and a pool - I can swim, run, and even bike! Need the workout as well.
Till then, see you guys when I get back!
Friday, April 28, 2006
To say it in one word - AWESOME! The Branford Marsalis Quartet is the living embodiment of the true spirit of jazz and improvisation! For those who missed the concert...too bad for ya!
The crowd on Wednesday night was quite good.. very responsive, while last night.. wow.. what a bunch of tight-a**es.. shows you how much they really know about jazz and Bran! There was a chinese lady sitting next to me who probably think I'm nuts... I just go crazy listening to such a powerful band like that play, I was almost jumping in my seat! Like I give a nuts..
I will write a review on it soon... so, Brian and Eugene, I'll send it to you as soon as I can, and if you'd like to put it up on the website, feel free!
Check out some pictures of us and Branford on my Happy People website!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Foreword: This article contains profanities and explicit language. If you're easily offended by them, then just click Back or whatever other buttons you wanna press and don't read. If you wish to continue reading, do it at your own intellectual risk.
What the F**k Happened to Black Popular Music?
By Kenny Drew, Jr.
I've decided to add this section to my website as a vehicle to express my views on various topics, musical and otherwise, that have been on my mind lately. You may wonder why I'm talking about popular music in this first installment, since I am generally thought of as a “jazz” musician. However, anyone who knows me knows that my tastes in music are very eclectic (as are those of most jazz musicians, quiet as it's kept). In fact when I started my career as a professional musician, I was not playing jazz. I started out playing in R&B groups and Top-40 bands. We only played jazz if the club was almost empty! The 60s - 80s was such an incredible time for all styles of popular music, but for the sake of this discussion I will concentrate specifically on black music (or rhythm-and-blues, or funk, or whatever the hell you want to call it).
Recently, I've been listening to a lot of my favorite music from that time, and to be honest, I am disgusted and sickened at how far our music has declined in the quality of the music and its message. How the hell did we get from Motown to Death Row; from Earth Wind & Fire to Ludacris; from Luther Vandross to 50Cent?
I remember a time in our music when songs had great melodies and chord changes, you actually had to be able to sing or play an instument to become a musician, and Michael Jackson was black! It's a sad commentary on our culture and society when the biggest thing in popular music is an ex-crack dealer whose claim to fame is being shot nine times, and one of the greatest entertainers in the world was on trial for child molestation. If that's not a sign of the coming Apocalypse, I don't know what is! And if 50Cent was really shot nine times, why couldn't one of those bullets have hit a vital organ? Who the fuck was shooting at him: Stevie Wonder? And as far as all these black rappers getting shot, how about a little equal opportunity violence here? Can't somebody pop a cap in Eminem's white ass?
Another issue in the decline of music today is the stupidity and negativity in the lyrics and the video images that accompany this so-called “music”. I recently discovered that there is now a form of rap called “coke rap”, in which the lyrics deal mainly with the sale, distribution and use of cocaine and crack. I find it offensive that any record company would try to make a profit from glorifying something that has decimated the black community the way that crack has. I hope that one day while 50Cent is lounging by the pool in his humongous mansion surrounded by beautiful groupies, he might consider how many lives were ruined by the poison he used to sell, and how many more lives will be potentially damaged by the musical poison he's selling now.
There's a video by Ludacris that I've seen of a song called “Act a Fool”. All I can remember about the video is that there were a lot of shots of him and his boys running from the cops. Don't we have enough young black men running around acting like fools without some idiot rapper encouraging it?( But then again, Ludacris probably makes more money in one month than I'll make in my entire life as a jazz musician. So who's the idiot here? Maybe it's me!) Remember when the lyrics in our music spoke of love or the loss of love? Who can forget the uplifting messages of peace, hope and spirituality in the lyrics of Earth Wind & Fire? Or the social consciousness and protest messages in the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron and Marvin Gaye? How the hell did we get from “Just to be Close to You Girl” to “Back That Ass Up Bitch”? How the hell did we get from “What's Goin' On” and “You Haven't Done Nothin' “ to “Me So Horny” and “My Hump”?
Since only one element of music is present in most of this crap it doesn't even justify being called music. Our culture has been dumbed down to the point where your average dumb-ass American can't tell the difference between a truly great musician and somebody who's been studying their instrument for a week. Playing a musical instrument at a high level is no longer a well-respected skill in our society. (I'm not 100% sure that it ever really was.) In fact, to be honest, I think that most of the students in music schools today who are studying jazz and classical music are wasting their fucking time and their parents' money! (Boy, am I gonna get in trouble for saying this!) Why spend all that time mastering an instrument when you can just get a drum machine and a microphone, write some asinine lyrics about bitches, ho's and pimps and make a ton of money? Sometimes I wonder whether I'm wasting my time in this cesspool called the music industry. These days it seems like the only way to make any serious money in music is to produce some bullshit that doesn't even sound like music!
So what's the solution here? Damned if I know! But I did see an encouraging story on the news recently. A billboard advertising 50Cent's new movie was put up in a black neighborhood not far from a school. In the billboard 50Cent is seen with his heavily tatooed back to the camera with his arms outstretched in a crucifix-like pose with a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other. Understandably, the community was outraged. They held protests, got some media coverage, and eventually succeeded in getting the movie company to remove the billboard. I say that we use this as a model nationwide.
I propose a nationwide boycott of rap music; perhaps by picketing in front of record company offices and major record store chains. Anybody remember the “Disco Sucks” movement in the 70s? Maybe it's time for a “Rap Sucks” movement now. Who's with me here? (Actually, looking back on the disco era, that music sounds like Beethoven in comparison to the rap garbage that's poisoning our airwaves now!) Maybe we could have a big “Rap Sucks” rally somewhere. (As long as it doesn't escalate into a riot like the “Disco Sucks” one did.)
I just had a ball reading this article, and I agree with a whole lot of it, too. I just can't take that sh*t on the radio these days.. that crap they pass off as R&B and what's not! I think some of the rock stuff they're coming up with makes more sense than that!
Monday, April 24, 2006
Anyway, today (or rather yesterday at the time of writing) was our first rehearsal with Jonathan Lee for his World Tour which begins in two weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. Read a bit about it on Eddie's blog.
Oh, if you didn't know, looks like the three of us (me on sax and flute, Eddie on trumpet and Roger on 'bones) will be involved in several of Jonathan's World Tour concerts! YEEE HAAA!!!! Confirmed dates include two shows in Taipei, Taiwan on 5 and 6th May (in two weeks!), 21st May in Shen Zhen (China-HK), and in Hong Kong mid July! It's gonna be quite a fun gig!
Just a little info, Jonathan Lee is a very prominent composer for the Taiwan chinese music market, and has brought out a lot of prominent artistes such as Emil Chau, Sandy Lam, Karen Mok, and even our own local Fish Leong.
Although I've never really followed the Chinese market, due to my extreme banana-ness, I'm actually quite honored to play with this cat! In fact, I've definitely heard some of those songs at one point or the other even during my younger days. Yeah, I think it's gonna a be a real fun gig, and I'm also travelling with the three most craziest, wackiest, funniest horn players in town!
I'm glad to be busy!
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Hope to see you there!
UPDATE: The starting time for the show has now been changed to 10pm, and there'll be THREE sets of music instead of the usual two! So there's more music this time around.. so do come by and check us out!
SUPPORT LIVE JAZZ in KL!!
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
They Rehat (rest), Tidur (sleep), *WE* are the ones that mampus (get screwed.. it's a rough colloquial to describe it). That's what it's like for the last two days.
As I've mentioned before in my previous post, I'm involved in this live video recording with a prominent Malay artiste (cool cat, too). Monday was supposed to be two sessions of rehearsals to run through the songs, and yesterday (Tuesday) was supposed to be a dress rehearsal.
So here's what happened:
Monday - we were supposed to be at the Auditorium at 2pm to rehearse the music and the band, but were told earlier in the day it's gotta be shelved to 3:30pm.. fine with me. Then.. it became 4:30pm. No problem. So we get there, there was another recording happening, and they were still in the middle of it. Apparently there was a directive from the Information Ministry to do that recording, so WE got shelved, and we had to wait. So we all waited until about 6pm and we got in to do a line check.. and had dinner break until 8:30pm. We got in at about 8:30pm or so, and ran through the songs fairly quickly, and finished about almost 11:30pm.
Before I go on, here's a little off-track situation I had to go through going into RTM. I was prohibited from entering, because I was wearing 3/4 pants! There wasn't a f*cking sign that says I can't wear that to go in. The sec-guards told me that they didn't want to get their ass kicked if one of their pegawai (officers) caught me with those pants. I had to go to Bangsar Village F.O.S (Factory Outlet Store) to get a pair of long pants (a nice pair by the way!), and then go into RTM. And on the way back to RTM from B'sar Village, I had already thought out what I wanted to say to the guard, but didn't see him as he was occupied (more on that later... ).
Yesterday (Tue) - we got in a little late due to heavy rain. I went to the guard house to get my entry pass, and the same officer from yesterday saw me wearing long pants, and proceeded to proudly say to me, "Macam inilah boleh! (that's more like it)". Not wanting to insult the fella (directly), I gave it to his face and said this: Elehh, pegawai atasan kau semua tu BODOH BELAKA... tak berpelajaran, tapi nak tunjuk lagak.. tapi you orang okay, sebab kamu buat kerja kau". In translation: "Your superior officers are a bunch of idiots, an uneducated lot, but wish to show off their authority! But you guys are cool, 'cos you're just doin' your jobs!". I could see the officer's expression change from a little proud to being humbled... I said it in such a way that it refers to him indirectly. Of course, I told them as well to suggest to their bosses to put a restriction signboard to let visitors know if they had any sort of restrictions.
Sixty years old... but still sixty years behind.
Anyway, back to the rehearsals, we started a little later than expected, as some of us also got in a little late. But the afternoon rehearsals turned out okay, and we even finished before 7pm, as we would have expected. So during our break, me, Eddie and Martin headed out to Starbucks to have a nice cuppa and later a nice indian banana leaf rice dinner at Bangsar.
We got back at about 8:30pm and had to wait around some more until we were told to start rehearsals. And they had to do camera rehearsals!! One the main problems is, instead of working around the bandstand, they make the bandstand work around the cameras! HOW F*CKING STUPID CAN THEY GET??? Even the main artiste started getting pissed off with these bungholes. And almost everytime when we try to do one song, we get stopped because of some unknown reasons, probably due to the incompetence of the cameramen and soundmen. I'm being too nice.. they're not even worth calling soundmen or whatever "men", cos they're so f*cking incompetent, but act like they're the best thing since sliced bread.
Anyway, we finally finished rehearsals about almost 12am, all getting ready to mampus! We were told to come back at 4pm to do a proper soundcheck (hah? Got such a thing there wan ah?), but I can GUARANTEE you.. as proper as it can get, they're just gonna f*ck it up real bad during the show.
Stay tuned for the drama...
Just got a copy of Jackie McLean's Action album - a reissue - and guess what? It's got that STUPID CD Copy Control! Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EMI sucks! I can't copy it into my iTunes.. basketcase!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
The gig with the David Gomes Quartet at The Top Room @ Top Hat last night was a blast!
There were definitely a bit of a crowd last night, and a lot of them were from the Press. And they definitely enjoyed it for most part, which was really cool! At least they were giving that vibe last night! And also there were a lot of cats from the MPO who came over, right off their concert just across the street - literally-, just to chill and listen to some stuff, and I think they were diggin' it too!
My good friends from Kajang and a friend of theirs dropped by.. KT and Bala... it was sure great to see you guys there, man! Sure made my day! The only two cats who'd come to my shows and enjoy themselves, for most part!
The Quartet last night was David Gomes on piano and vocals, Vincent Ong on double bass, myself on alto sax, and Sudin on drums.
We started off the first set with some usual jazz standards Four, Green Dolphin Street, St. Thomas, and some others, and Junji came up to sing some songs (in her usual jazz and blues, without fail!) such as I'm Beginning To See The Light, Bluesette, Night And Day, and David and Junji did a wonderful duo on Moonglow.
At this point, we invited up a sax player from Budapest to jam with us - Andrew Jasz. He was a guest saxophone soloist for the MPO American Music concert that went on last week, I think. Nice cat...beautiful sound on the alto, and he plays damn good, too. He jammed two tunes with us and we took our first break.
We started our second set with some happening tunes, with me and Andrew jamming, and later on Junji came up to sing a couple of swinging tunes like How High The Moon, a beautiful ballad You Don't Know What Love Is and more. Halfway through the second set, my soul-brother sax player David Muehsam joined us on stage to jam the remaining tunes on the set. And it was just so happpening, and the musical level on stage was really high, I think a lot of people could feel the vibe flowing through the whole room. I think I speak for a lot of us, that there hasn't been that much jazz in KL in a long while until last night!!
But don't take it from me... hear from David Muehsam, "it's got that vibe!". We all enjoyed ourselves that night.
Anyway, even as we finished that set, David (Gomes) and David (Muehsam) went up on stage a few minutes later to play a nice quiet - but unplanned - set, with the David duo playing Body And Soul, and Vincent and I joined in for Night And Day.
Like a tired Junji was saying, "it's like nobody wants to get off stage!". And for those who were there, I think they can attest to that.
It was just so beautiful. I haven't had that much fun in a gig for quite a while!
So to all of you who wants to go to a spot where all you're expecting is GOOD LIVE JAZZ MUSIC...
Come to the Top Room @ Top Hat... where everything is swingin' at the Top!!
Friday, April 14, 2006
I just wanna announce, that I've opened up a new blog site for my band The Happy People Quintet. Although I wanted to do up a dedicated website for it, my horn-ey partner-in-crime cum trumpet player bandmate, Eddie, suggested I put up a blog instead. So, here it is!
Do visit the page and check it out!
Visit us at http://happypeoplequintet.blogspot.com!
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Watched Spike Lee's Inside Man last week while at KLCC. Really good movie to check out... for most part Spike Lee never fails to kick some intellectual butt with his movies. Some of his notables include Mo' Better Blues (one of my favorites, about the rise and fall of a jazz trumpet player, played amazingly -down to the instrument fingerings - by Denzel Washington), Do The Right Thing, and some others.
Inside Man stars (no surprise) Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Clive Owen. The short of it is about the perfect bank heist by a Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), and police negotiator Denzel Washington trying to work out the situation. However, there's more than meets the eye than just a bank heist, as the appearance of Jodie Foster's character - that somehow has a large influence with top guns in country - to try to defuse the situation with the bank heist perpetrators.
The storyline seemed straight-forward for most part, but the underlying message hits right in your face - Spike Lee-style.
Good movie to check out.. and the soundtrack was awesome! It was written by Terence Blanchard (also a notable jazz trumpet player and Spike Lee's musical confidante in a lot of his movies).
New Blog: Julian Runs!
I've decided on opening up a new blog just to write about my less-than-notable athletic pursuits! So check it out at http://fathlete.blogspot.com.
I have to admit, my athletic pursuits have taken a little bit of a backseat, ever since the KL International Marathon. But that's the trade-off that happens sometimes with my job. Like they say, when it rains, it pours. So the last couple of weeks have been just work, and more work. Shows, gigs, preparing for gigs, and teaching as well.
I've got a plan to take a week off and spend it in PD, in May. I'm gonna bring my bike, running shoes, and swimming trunks. In addition, my saxophone, flute, and my keyboard and also some books will be in my backpack. All I'm planning to do is swim-bike-run-practice-eat-sleep-read for the whole week.
See how that goes.
All Souls' Day
Although the ching ming day was two weeks ago, we only went to visit our ancestors' graves just recently on Sunday. One trip was to Nirwana Memorial Park and another in the Sg Kantan cemetary in Kajang.
The general impression of Chinese business-folk is that they will try to cut costs in making their products or services, up to the point of selling inferior products.
How true, for most part.
Well, we were visiting one of the graves, we usually put those white, long-burning candles on the sides of the grave and light it up. Those are the same candles that we'd usually use if there was a power outage in our house. So my dad got these Twin Horse Candles from GIANT Supermarket in Kelana Jaya (last minute, as usual). As we proceeded to light those candles, they started bending like it was Play-Doh! We couldn't even get it to stand properly, because as they burn they started bending and just drooped!! TALK ABOUT CHEAP SKATE!
Check out these pictures and see how lame they were.
Should complain to the Malaysian Consumer Association! At least have respect for the dead. Chinese bastards. Note: I'm not Chinese.. well, I am.. but more like anything else other than Chinese.. BANANA!! I would say, I'm Chinese, but I definitely admit to some of the pathetic traits of the Chinese people. This is one of them.
Well.. that's all.
Monday, April 03, 2006
The whole month of M!(arch) is over.. we did the final matinee show yesterday afternoon, and I guess it went with a bang. In fact, I think I did the best solo over the POW dance track for yesterday's show.
However, I'm not able to rest on my laurels yet, I've got a whole list of things this month to do, really. But it's mostly behind the scenes work more than anything else. The shows I'll be doing this month will be, among others:
14, 15/4 - David Gomes Quartet @ The Top Room
19/4 - RTM - Zoom In! featuring Yasin, with the Happy People Sextet
21, 22/4 - Happy People Quintet @ The Top Room
28, 29/4 - Happy People Quintet @ Alexis Bistro and Wine Bar
Although it's only these shows, but it'll be a lot of behind-the-scenes work especially for the RTM show and the Happy People gigs - we've got a couple of new faces in the band (Charles will be honeymoon-ing in the UK.. lucky bugger!! hehehe).
And to add to the excitement: BRANFORD MARSALIS IS COMING TO TOWN!!!!!!!!!
Say it...!! BRANFORD MARSALIS IS COMING TO TOWN!!!!
YES! YES! YES! I've been waiting for about THREE years to see him! On the first occasion, his bass player Eric Revis fell sick, so the show had to be cancelled. The second occasion, the promoter couldn't pay their deposit.. so that was that! And this time around, those buggers at IMG are bringing him down to the Dewan Philharmonik Petronas... for FOUR NIGHTS!! Two nights classical, and two nights jazz. I'll be going for one of the classical nights, and both nights of jazz.. got me tickets!! Wooo hoo.. I can't wait!
He'll be playing from the 24th to 27th of April. Go to the DFP box-office and get your tickets! It's one show you should not miss at all.. ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE A JAZZ FAN OR MUSICIAN!
Oh yeah..there's more.
Me, Eddie and Roger Chee (the KL Horny Horns) will be touring Taiwan with Jonathan Lee (Lee Zhong Sern) early May! Woo hoo.. nothing nicer than a overseas tour gig!! Yayyy.. thanks to Mac Chew for getting to make it happen!
So, it's busy busy busy for me..
PS: I'm listening to WKCR - they're playing Jackie McLean for two days until Tuesday as a memorial to the late Dr. Jackie McLean.
My prayers are with you Jackie Mac!
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Coming from the bebop school of Charlie Parker, he also formed his own sound and identity playing with great cats like Miles Davis (he had only played 4 years when he started playing Miles!), Art Blakey, and Charles Mingus. His early years after playing with Miles and others helped forged the sound that's known as hard bop, along with many other hard bop artistes such as Art Blakey. Of course, he eventually expanded his sound into more freer forms of jazz and integrated the influences of modal jazz with free jazz into his own distinctive hardbop sound.
I've got some of his albums including Nature Boy (Blue Note, 2000), Vertigo (Blue Note, 1962, 63 - reissued), Hat Trick (Blue Note, 1996), The Jackie Mac Attack Live (Verve, 1991), Bluesnik (Blue Note, 1961), and Jackie's Bag (Blue Note, 1959). I will be getting more soon.
Rest in peace, Jackie Mac. I wished I had the chance to meet and know you! My prayers are with you.
May 17, 1932 - March 31, 2006