Sunday, April 27, 2008
I'm right now in a hallway in the infamous Berklee College of Music, typing this post on a public computer.
Me and Chern Hwei came over to Boston on Thursday, and we're bunking at one of Chern Hwei's string quartet members' place. It's almost the end of spring break for me, so I decided to tag along with CH to come over here to just chill out for a couple of days. CH's got some stuff happening with his string quartet, so while he's doing that, I'm here in the college practicing a little bit in one of the unlocked practice rooms.
Boston is a pretty interesting place. My first impression is that it is less crammed unlike New York. There's just more 'space' everywhere, and buildings are spaced out much more. It's like half a city and half a town. Not as intense like NY. It also gave me an impression that this town is more, 'classy' than NY, where the surroundings are much more pleasant, and well taken care of. Oh yeah, the running community here is large, very obvious. You can't miss the sight of runners everywhere, and every five minutes you'd see one or several passing by. Boston is so beautiful and well-structured that it's no wonder that Boston Marathon is such a successful, popular race. I'm gonna try to see if I can at least do one run tomorrow morning with a friend, a Singaporean drummer who's studying in Berklee.
Berklee itself is an interesting place. There are just SO MANY students here. It's interesting to just walk around the place checking out cats practicing in their practice rooms or playing in an ensemble room. There's always something happening here, or someone practicing/playing, even on weekends. I took the opportunity to just use one of their unlocked practice rooms to work on my horn a little bit.
Anyway, I'll be posting some pics soon, so stay tuned.
Will write more when I can. Till then, see you later.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Tonight was a night full of great music for me and Chern Hwei.
First stop was The Stone, in the Lower East Side. Chris Speed's band was playing, backed by Cuong Vu (trumpet), an accordionist, bassist and drummer (Jim Black, I think). Quite crazy music, but smoother... very interesting compositions and arrangements, experimental, you might say! But very interesting experience... different musical flavor than the usual straight-ahead jazz stuff. It was also very powerful, and in-your-face, but with lots of subtlety, and collective improvisation.
Second stop was the Iridium, to catch the Headhunters (minus Herbie of course) and Kenny Garrett. The band was Kenny (sax), Mike Clark and Lenny White on drums, Bill Summers on percussions, Geri Allen on keys/rhodes, and Richie Goods on electric bass. It was funk-jazz all the way... old school, but powerful nonetheless! And Kenny.. oh my god.. what can I say?? He "kills" all the time! LOL! But it was also interesting to watch Geri Allen, the only female musician in the group, play! I have heard (or read, rather) a lot about her. She's also the other half for the amazing Wallace Roney, the trumpeter (a killer player in his own right!).
After the end of the set, we managed to talk to Kenny a little bit (and spoke some Mandarin to him as well... he's learning Mandarin, too!), and also took some pictures. He is one seriously cool cat! That's like three dreams fulfilled for me... meeting Kenny was one of them!
Anyway, here are some pics for ya!
For more pics, go to my Flickr side, and click on "Snapshots of New York".
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"Jackie Chan is all over the news. And not in a good way. It seems the martial-arts master went to a rock show in Hong Kong recently and stormed the stage in a drunken stupor, demanding that some singer named Jonathan Lee duet with him right there on the spot. According to reports (because I don't personally make it a habit to attend concerts in Hong Kong), Chan then bragged about being wasted, attempted to conduct the band, and kept making the musicians start over again for no apparent reason. Oh, and then he began insulting the folks in the audience, who by this point were heckling Chan for his behavior.
I have a few points to make about this, to a few different parties. We'll start with the audience. What's wrong with you people?!? An international film star bum-rushes the stage, and you boo him? This man is an entertainer, and you cannot possibly tell me that this whole scene was not entertaining. And it's not like he was busting up a Beatles reunion or something — this is some dude named Jonathan Lee! Now, I'm not trying to dis and dismiss the Taiwanese singer-songwriter, but...well, he's a Taiwanese singer-songwriter, for crissakes! (By the way, he could be an American singer-songwriter, French singer-songwriter, hell, even a Cambodian singer-songwriter, and I'd say the same thing. The term ''singer-songwriter'' just generally makes my skin crawl.) And another question for the audience: What the hell did you expect? Have you never heard of the Drunken Master film franchise, in which Chan played a dude who achieved awesome powers after getting completely drunky-skunky? Granted, his powers at the concert could be deemed slightly less awesome, but still, the pattern is clear: The guy can drink. And you better not mess with him when he does.
And now a message to my fellow members of the press who have been piling on poor Jackie for this lack of discretion: Please, keep it up. Seriously, this whole encounter may be a bit unseemly, but it is far less embarrassing than some of his more recent movies, like The Medallion The Tuxedo. Anything to distract us from those debacles can only be a positive, at least until Police Story 18 comes out.
And now a word to Jackie Chan: I don't really have anything to say to you about this whole episode, but while I have your attention, could you please stop making those crappy Diet Pepsi ads with Jay ''Remember When I Used to Star in Movies With Tom Cruise'' Mohr? They're depressing and they make me want to get drunk and storm stages, telling thousands of people to shove it or they'll be on the receiving end of a death claw to the throat. In any event, I loved you in Rumble in the Bronx (even if the Bronx did sure look a hell of a lot like Vancouver) and hate to see you reduced to shilling for a lame diet beverage with the former host of Last Comic Standing. Let's talk about a new career plan. Over drinks, which seems to be your preferred method of operation."
I don't what you guys think, but as far as I know, this is a classic example of the ignoramuses that the U-S of A produce on a daily basis. Here's my reply to Dalton's article:
Dear Mr. Ross,
.. first thing's first.. in this part of the globe, Jonathan Lee is as BIG as the Beatles, in many different respects. He wrote so many beautiful, meaningful songs, that launched many star careers in South East Asia. I don't see you doing, that? He's made a lot of money, and also gained great recognition. What about you? If you ask some the successful artistes that came out of the South East Asian region such as Taiwan, Malaysia, and even China, they'll tell you how respected the man is.
Secondly, you said you're not trying diss and dismiss Jonathan Lee... but by saying all of that shit, you already did. So spare us your contradictory b/s of (not) saying what you mean. Oh yeah, it also shows how much you know about Mr. International Film Star.
And from the audiences' point of view, it's definitely not entertaining. The flow of the concert was disrupted to the point beyond reproach. If you care to spend a few hundred bucks on a Beatles reunion concert, and have some asshole actor/singer coming on stage drunk and spoiling the concert, then you tell me otherwise.
On a similar note, my friends, the Mac Chew band, just finished a full-house Jonathan Lee concert at Nanjing. I can't be there to play the show this time around, as I'm here in NYC. But I guess, my heart was there with them. Definitely miss playing in that band, and with 大哥. Been listening to his music and the concert recordings as well, and I'm filled with great memories of the last two years playing in that group.
Hope to get to play with them again, soon!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I just got off iChat with my good buddy and trumpeter Eddie, who at time of writing is in Nanjing with my other comrades from the Jonathan Lee concert. And the stadium he was playing at had wi-fi, so he got us hooked up on iChat, and I managed to watch their rehearsal and say hi to everyone there!
My mentor and good friend Thomas was playing the sax/flute part this time around.. definitely one of the best, soulful saxophonist in KL!!
Man, I really miss those cats there.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Arturo O'Farrill Big Band @ Symphony Space - March 27
Arturo O'Farrill, pianist, and son of the late latin jazz legend Chico O'Farrill, has been making a big name for himself in NYC. One of his projects is the Big Band, where he performs compositions and arrangements of latin jazz nature. My professor and head of QC Jazz program, Michael Mossman, is also one of the main members (and lead trumpeter) for that group.
Their show at Symphony Space was an interesting showcase, as their premiered or featured works of contemporary arrangers/composers, from Paul Shapiro, Michael Webster, Fernando Otero, and more, all arranged in a latin jazz vein but with more edge! Latin jazz of the future, if you will!
One of the more outstanding soloist featured in the show was Badal Roy.. master Indian percussionist, who played tabla that night. Man... that was crazy.... no wonder all the Western percussionists/drummers are digging that stuff from the East.
James Moody Benefit - March 31
Just an update from the last post... this was the gig that Jeremy Monteiro was in town for. And thanks to him, I got to see this show (without causing a black hole in my wallet!) and see some legends play! By the way, this was a benefit concert organized by Mr. James Moody to raise scholarship funds for students in Purchase College SUNY. Every year he will award one of these to one student who qualifies, and of course, the beneficiary is subject to certain terms and conditions (very interesting, that one!).
Some of the cats performing in that gig were real big-wigs, and some of them legends - James Moody, Jon Hendricks (Junji.. you'd freak out!), Jon Faddis, Roy Hargrove, Renee Rosnes, Bill Charlap, Jeremy Monteiro, Todd Coolman, Howard Alden, John Lee, Russell Malone, Antonio Hart, and Paquito D'Rivera, and of course last year's and this year's award recipients. I don't know about those kids, I'd be freaked out playing with them on the same stage!
It was quite a crazy night. Although it was more like a big, happening jam session than an actual artiste showcase, it was still a very enlightening one, especially seeing some of the older cats who are legends in the jazz world, play. Even my professor, Antonio Hart, proceeded to slip in a lesson while he was at it (LOL!).
After the show, we even headed down to Village Vanguard to check out the Vanguard Big Band. By that time, I think my head was already at the brink of exploding from all that good music! LOL! Can one ever have too much?
PS: Thanks again Jeremy!
Jimmy Heath Big Band - April 3rd
Another living legend of the saxophone, Mr. Jimmy Heath, performed with his big band at the Iridium last weekend. Among the line-up included both my professors, Antonio Hart and Michael Mossman. I went down there with a couple of my course buddies (some killer sax players and brass players, too!), and checked out the late set. Another inspiring experience, to see another legend play as well. I think he's in his early to mid 80s (?), but still playing like a young man but with a load of experience and music behind every single note. Of course, with his notorious big band arrangements, it amplified the experience even more!
Rozemaryz Babiez @ Studio A.I.R - April 5th.
My first new band in NYC.. it's a trio consisting of myself on sax, Fung Chern Hwei on violin, and Brian Lindgren on laptop/samples/electronics. Mainly CH's idea, he wanted to put up a group that collaborates live instruments with electronica. This was our first gig as this new band, at a nice little loft cum performance space in Brooklyn, called Studio A.I.R. We did a 15-minute piece we composed (or rather.. cook up) as a group, called "The Butcher". It was a more sound piece than a harmonically composed piece, where we play with different sound effects based on a certain storyline or movement.
We're on MySpace, so check it out. More stuff will be posted soon, I reckon.
Check out an interview I did for Vision KL via e-mail, about the jazz scene in KL. Click here to read it.
..that's it for now!