Saturday, June 09, 2007

Live update: Genting Jazz Fest!

Hi all,

Here I am again in Genting, wifi-ing from Starbucks Coffee @ Highlands Hotel, and live-blogging about the Genting Jazz Festival. The first night is over, with five bands playing some really good music (and more to follow tonight!).

The bands that were playing last night were James Boyle and The Ragged Tigers (M'sia), Cape Jazz All-Stars (Cape Town), Shanghai Jazz Ensemble (Shanghai), Tangalgo (New Zealand, Italy, Scotland), and the Gangbe Brass Band (Benin, Africa).

James Boyle and the Ragged Tigers
from Malaysia, kicked off the first set with some Jimmy Boyle originals (and re-arranged by James), and some funk/latin jazz standard numbers. They put up a really good show, and are commendable because of the fact that James got real young cats in the scene to play for him - Dennis on violin, Hiro on electric bass, and Elliott on drums! I can imagine it being such a challenge for those guys!! Good job.. you guys made KL proud!

Cape Jazz All-Stars kicked off the second set with their brand of cool South African and Cape Town-ish grooves, melodies and arrangements! A lot of it were very danceable (like most African-based rhythms anyway!), but it was a real band feature rather than each individual, although each of them had solo spots at some songs.

Shanghai Jazz Ensemble
came up next, with their re-arrangements of old chinese 1930s classic songs! Our good friend and pianist Eric Li (a Shanghai native by the way) played piano with them as well, and knowing Eric, he always puts up a good show. John Thomas was featured on two tunes as well. The show was good overall, although they were some weak parts on certain tunes. Most notable in the band were the vocalists Coco Zhao Ke and Erica Lee who sang the tunes with such passion and conviction, it was a joy to listen. Who'd think that these old chinese classics could actually sound so good?? The violinist Pang Fei was also impressive.. he'd give local violin players a run for their money!

is a piano trio (piano/double bass/drums) of musicians from New Zealand, Italy and Scotland, and their music was nothing short of amazing! Imagine different tango rhythms and complex arrangements, incorporating jazz and classical characteristics, giving each song a very narrative sound! Each tune is a story in itself, with changing rhythms and dynamics at different points in the song. Their virtuosic skills enable them to execute ideas and passages with such ease it makes their story telling even much more effective! I got goosebumps listening to them!

The final band for the night was the Gangbe Brass Band from Benin, Africa. A naturally good choice for the closing act, the band was a natural party band... playing their cultural African rhythms and harmonies, with a real kick-ass horn section - three trumpets, one sousaphone, one tenor sax and a trombone player - and backed by a percussionist. I had a good taste of what the African musical culture is like... I just couldn't stop moving and dancing!! And for those who know me well, you know how little I dance, if at all! But that's what music is.. GOOD MUSIC, that is... it makes you move uncontrollably! I realize I can react to live music.. and something as simple and spiritual like African dance rhythms (and other danceable rhythms from other countries like New Orleans, Afro-Cuban, etc) is one of those things I can not resist! I would really love to see and listen to more of it!
Anyway, that's a short review of it.

Next, is a plug:

It's a bit late, but better late than never, right?? If you can, come tonight to the Genting Jazz Fest, I'm also playing with John Thomas' THE FUNK MOB at 7pm tonight. Tickets are still available. So take a nice drive up Genting and revel in some good music tonight!

THE FUNK MOB @ Genting International Jazz Festival Venue: Genting International Showroom Date and Time: Tonight 9 June 2007, 7-8pm Tickets: check out


- A driving pulse with interplays of improvisatory rhythms -

The Funk Mob is the brainchild of drummer John Ashley Thomas, whose credits includes working with Grammy award-winning flautist Nestor Torres and touring the Blue Note circuit in Japan with Motown legends The Three Degrees, and played at numerous jazz festivals including Arts Alive! Jazz Fest in South Africa and Jarasum International Jazz Fest in South Korea. The Funk Mob was formed in mid 2006 and boasts a stellar line-up of Malaysia’s finest young jazz musicians including Tok Khon on the keys, Eric Li on the piano, Fly on bass, Wan on guitar, and Julian Chan on sax.

Tok Khon
has played with numerous Taiwanese and local Chinese and Malay artistes and is also a prolific producer. He is an experienced and versatile musician who has played with many stellar musicians, including renowned drummer Lewis Pragasam.

Eric Li
has played at the Huahin International Jazz Festival in Thailand, the Mosaic Jazz Festival in Singapore and the Arts Alive! Jazz Festival in South Africa, among others. He has also worked with the likes of Hong Kong pop king Andy Lau.

is also a veteran of jazz festivals and has showed at the Bangkok Jazz Festival in Thailand and the Jarasum Jazz Festival in South Korea. His credits include working with pianist Michael Veerapan, Mr. Gambus Farid Ali, guitarist Jose Thomas and saxophonist Greg Lyons.

Guitarist Wan has worked with numerous local jazz artistes including songstress Noryn Aziz and recently played with Mr. Gambus Farid Ali in China.

Julian Chan
is a promising young saxophonist who has played at numerous jazz festivals, the most recent being the Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia. He has worked with Taiwanese superstar Jonathan Lee, Sam Macnally and percussionist Steve Thornton, among others.

Being so recently formed, the Funk Mob has only played at the Sunrise Jazz Festival and for the Heineken Live Sessions at Bangkok Jazz. The Funk Mob will be showcasing mostly original material in the jazz, funk and Latin genre and is looking forward to recording their debut album in the coming year.

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