Friday, May 18, 2007

A Jazz Miri-cle!

Well, my overdue write-up on Miri Jazz Festival is here (pics are incoming, so stay tuned to this channel).


Just a little foreword, for those who aren't in the know, I was part of the David Gomes Sextet to play at the 2nd Miri International Jazz Festival, last week on the 11th and 12th of May. We were the ONLY band to represent Malaysia in this Festival, and I believe we're all (if not most of us) quite proud of it.

The preparations for our performance in Miri basically took months. Technically we only had 3 major rehearsal sessions (five if you count soundchecks at Top Room), and 2 preview shows at the Top Room. Of course, there's all the other kinds of preparations that took place out of the rehearsal room, such as arranging the music, preparing charts, arranging rehearsal dates (that was a b*tch, I tell ya... or rather, Junji can tell ya!).

For a lot of us, being a part of the festival was quite a big deal... I mean, here we are playing (we were the first band to open the festival, by the way.. how scary is that?) in front of all these cats from other countries like USA, Cuba, Australia, Spain, India and Germany, and Morocco. These cats are musically at the top of their field, and most of us Malaysians are just still trying to catch up. So it was definitely a challenge for us, and it's one that we are glad, and looking forward, to take!

Anyway, here's a chronological account of the trip:

10 May - Thursday

We (the band) basically met up at the LCC-T airport at 6am to check in (most of us still half-asleep somewhat - hello? we jazz musicians are lousy morning people!) the AirAsia flight. Then there was breakfast at McDs (oh by the way, they're serving pancakes now.. yummm!!), and we boarded the plane. Flight was uneventful, thankfully, on the new Airbus-es.. they were quite comfortable... kudos to the pilots, too, for a good take-off and landing. However, stewardesses weren't too great this flight. The flight was 2 hours long, and we got to Miri at about 9.30am.

Welcoming commitee was there to give us a nice (albeit small) welcome, and there was a bus that took us to Parkcity Everly Hotel (the host hotel for the festival), and we basically checked in, and we were all goofing around like we always do. By the way, I had decided to appoint myself official jazz fest videographer (when I'm not playing, that is) for the band during this trip. So, here I was video-shooting anything interesting that I could possibly catch.

Everything was a relaxing breeze after check-in.. we chilled out, then had lunch, and took a trip to Miri town. We began to notice one thing - everyone and everything in Miri is SOOOOO relaxed and laid back (including hotel service, shuttle bus service.. EVERYTHING!). So everything took longer to get... which was a bit of a pain after a while. We had lunch at the hotel coffee-house (that took ages to reach our table), and afterwards we took a hotel shuttle out to town (it came late). We waited more than one hour from the scheduled pick-up time, but the shuttle never returned for us! Bugger. Took a cab back instead.. and it cost RM12 a cab, for less than 15 minutes ride to the hotel! Damn, so expensive!

Most of the artistes were already in Miri since Tuesday, so we were probably one of the last few cats to arrive. We saw some of them at the coffee house, during lunch and dinner, but since we were still "new" around Miri, we didn't get to talk much to them (save some eye contact, a couple of nods), except for one of the German fellas from KCP4.. their tour manager. (He) Broke the ice, by joining our table during dinner, and chatting with us. And one of the other bands, Son2Nos, also starting greeting us, and we reciprocated, of course (we must uphold the "Malaysians are friendly people" mantra, right??).

After adjourning to our rooms, I basically brought my Mac and headed to the lobby to use the Wi-Fi services. Unfortunately I had to deal with the horrible lounge-showband (4 girls and one guy) that was playing there. It was typical - four scantily clad women (I think they were from the Philippines), and one male saxophonist/keyboardist. The sound from the PA system was terribly loud, and the band sounded terrible, with the terrible girl dance and MIDI backup music (commonly downloaded from the Net, most Top 40 bands use them!). And what was funny was one of the trumpet players from one of the jazz fest bands just happily slotted himself there and jammed with them!! He sounded really good, and for him to be so happy to play, even with a sub-standard band, I was amused but also admired his tenacity and humility. But being so used to how hotel bands here play, and being a Malaysian, it's a bit hard for us to do so. Maybe it's just pride, I don't know. But we're definitely not comfortable doing so... unless the band sounded good, then it'll be a different story lah. I might do that overseas, though.. haha, not in Malaysia.

11 May - Friday

We got up in time for breakfast, which was not much of one, the hotel food was really BAD. We also managed to squeeze some gym time, before we met up at David's room for a band discussion and rehearsal.

Just a little gym rant - there was this bloody lady walking on one (of two!) treadmills and reading a bloody newspaper! How bloody indulgent is that? Wanted to take the paper and smack her with it... let people who really NEED to use the treadmill use it lah, for crying out loud!

We stopped the rehearsal to make way for buffet lunch, which was quite bad also, although it was at the chinese restaurant. After lunch banter, we went back to David's room to rehearse some more, until soundcheck time. Soundcheck was alright, although we had some slight problems with the bass frequencies of the hall and stage. We rehearsed a couple of songs some more, and basically went back to our rooms to chill. We slept for a few hours until before standby time.

We met up at David's room, fully dressed in "The David Gomes Jazz Sextet" tee-shirts specially made for us by David and Junji, for a quick band meeting before we headed down to the stage. The Pavillion (a circular hall within the hotel compound) was starting to fill up, and while we were setting up our stuff, we met some familiar faces who came over to chat with us next to the artiste area, before we went up on stage. The lights dimmed to a dark, and the MC kicked off the festival... and announced The David Gomes Jazz Sextet... oh boy! We went up on stage, and I prayed that we would play some good sh*t tonight!

The Music Starts Playin'..

The first song (Just Swinging) started with a drum solo...wait, where's the one?... ah bugger, we missed the entry! Damn, what the hell happened there? At least, the rest of the song turned out okay...pheww!! Wait.. I missed the ending, and to think we practiced that shit so much! Argh!

Turnaround was a bomb, that was fun to play, and Thomas kicked butt.

Entry turned out really nice too, although I thought I could've built it up more. I was trying to set it up for Tom, but the band came in back the intro.. oh well, never mind lah.

Next was Junji's cameo on The Song Is You, that was a real swingin' one.. and Thomas was a killer again on that one!

Swung hard again on Almost Like Being In Love, and everyone danced to the latin/swing Nancy Wilson-version of A Lot Of Living To Do.

Junji went offstage, and we blistered and burnt again on David's Just Around The Corner. Thomas took it on first, and when he finished, I was almost too hesitant to play after him.. he just kicked everyone's butt!

We evened out the mood a little bit with a nice latin-type groove on Blues In Brazil, another original of David's, and it had a nice beachside feel to it.

Next was another burnout tune, another original Fire Within Water, I think we held it together as much as we could.. it was a fast one.. and it was a nice one for me to take out!!

The mood was then broken with David's sweet arrangement of Have You Met Miss Jones, and when David sang, everyone went estatic!!

We ended our show with a nice fast swing, All About Love, and it was a good feel that we ended with... crap, we missed the drum solo entry, what the heck was that?.. and we ended with a bam! That was it... several months of hard work done in EXACTLY one hour! Yeah.. and boy, was I feeling really tired after that! I think a lot of us really played hard!!!

When the music ends... eh, not yet..

After some quick photography sessions, and packing our stuff, we headed to the restaurant for food... nothing like makan after a good gig session! We missed KCP4 though.. bad mistake, no thanks to me and my artful procrastination. The trumpet player, Matthias Schriefl, was a real crazy player... that was the cat jamming with them top40 band fellas.

Anyway, we got back just in time to watch Lluis Coloma's band, with a 4pc sax section.. lots of boogie woogie, blues, and one really nice ballad (there were people actually shhhh-ing noisy fellas during that time!).

Next was the Dirty Dozen Jazz Band - now, these cats really can bring the house down with their music! And, whoever said that the New Orleans-based jazz band only plays funeral music?? Seems to be this thing going around about them being a funeral band? Get real, people! Funerals are one of many events that they play.. and most of the time, N'awlins music in funerals is happy music! No sh*t! I would like some happy jazz played at funeral!! They got everyone dancing on and off stage!! Infectious rhythms, and horn lines! And damn, those horn players sure love to play right up there. Oh, and a notable mention - the sousaphone player was the bomb! Instead of a regular bass player, the sousaphonist took the whole bass part! The cat looks lanky, thin, and I'm sure pretty out there, but when he's on stage, he's blowin' that thang like it ain't nobody's bizness, y'dig?

After the shows, you'd think we'd go back to our rooms and crash? Nawww....ended up at the coffee house, having supper, and the next thing we knew, we were jamming outside the coffee house - David, Junji, myself, David Blenkhorn (from the George Washingmachine Quartet) on acoustic guitar, and Vincent on double bass. Here's a Youtube video of it:

And even after that, Tom and I were up on the stage where the top40 band was playing, along with the horn section from the Dirty Dozen, jamming! Talk about music crazy. And even after THAT, we were sitting down with David Blenkhorn and ET (from DDBB) and jamming some more, with David and Junji singing every song that they could think off. I was also jamming with David and ET at some point too! Nothing like more music to end the night!

Part 2 coming soon...

Read more about it from Junji..

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