Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Month that was September - pt 1

I've got an excuse for my lack of updates from the last three weeks. Been busy lah, what else? From the China trip, to Singapore, and the some.

China trip

I guess I'll just report up on my China trip, albeit an abbreviated one, for this first parter. Don't think putting in too much details will be too reader-friendly (unless you really have THAT much time to read about what I write). Either way, I don't really have the time lately to sit and write out in too much details.


Monday, 5 Sept: Spent the monday after the Adidas run, running around... figuratively. Had to collect my passport with my China visa from the China embassy, get bus tickets to Singapore, and to send my Polar heart rate monitor to get it serviced, it was acting really funny, with disappearing displays. Without telling too much, let me say this: KL public transport is the crap! The train systems are so disintegrated. I'm glad I have a car to drive, and I'm grateful every minute for that. We have so much to learn, even from Singapore, where public transport is probably one of their national prides.

Tuesday, 6 Sept: Left for Singapore by bus at PuduRaya station at 7pm with John Thomas (we're the only two Malaysians involved for this gig). John had just returned from his South Africa trip with Mr. Gambus, Farid Ali, for their South Africa tour, earlier in the morning. Imagine the two of us, lugging instruments and luggage bags. John had the most to bring, his cymbals, drumstick bag, snare, and his own luggage bag. Reached Singapore early in the morning, around 1am.

Wednesday, 7 Sept: Managed to walk around a little bit in Singapore city, to check out some musical instrument shops. After lunch, we went for a rehearsal for Shanghai show. We rehearsed a variety of current pop and rock tunes, from Maroon 5 to Red Hot Chilli Peppers. You probably must be wondering by now: What does a saxophone player have to do with playing those pop/rock songs? My answer: I don't know! Ahahha.. they just called me up to play, so I'll play la. That's my job, to try to fit in as well. But then, I was also playing flute and some percussions for this show. Later in the night, the band checked into Changi airport for the 1am flight to Shanghai (on Singapore Airlines, this time around, THANK GOD!).

Thursday, 8 Sept: Reached Shanghai airport, around 6.30am. Bus ride to our hotel took about an hour or so, I slept like a baby in the bus. I was watching movies in the plane all night thru the flight. Bad idea, I know... what can I say? Nice movies, like Sin City and some others. After braving the YUCKY, DISGUSTING, NAUSEATING hotel breakfast consisting of porridge and some sad looking condiments, we all crashed in our rooms until afternoon.

Came afternoon, we all went to the Xiang Yuan flea market and bought a whole bunch of stuff, setting up our bargaining prowess with them opportunist Chinese vendors. I got a bunch of sports shirts, a nice imitation Nike backpack, Nike golf shirt for dad, a Tod's bag for mum, while my other bandmates pretty much raided the handbag shops and more!

We, then, went to our gig site at the new Shanghai F1 circuit, where there was a massive box-tent set up on the track itself with a stage, and dinner seats on both sides, separated by the passage on the track to allow the new BMW 3 series car to pass through. Did some instrument checks, set up, and then left back to the hotel.

Friday, 9 Sept: We went to the track again for a second sound-check in the afternoon. Like usual, we waited a very long while until it was time for our soundcheck. Oh yeah, there were models... yummy! Hehhehe. After the soundcheck, me and John went to the jazz club, JZ Bar, where we caught a Canadian quintet play (and they had just came from Korea from the Jarasum Jazz Fest, where Aseana Percussion Unit was playing as well). We then hung and talked with some of the band members. I basically went back to the hotel to sleep.

Saturday, 10 Sept: We left for the F1 track sometime around late afternoon, as the BMW 3 Series launch event takes place today. It's a 2-day event, and we were due to play both on Saturday and Sunday. Since we were the last act to play, we were again, waiting for a long time before we could play. We did the show, played a lot of cool radio tunes from RHCP, Maroon 5, Michael Jackson, and some others. But it was pretty tiring. I even skipped going out with some of the guys for some late night partying.

Sunday, 11 Sept: I got up late morning, and I went out to town alone to Nanjing Road to do some shopping to buy some medicinal stuff that my Mom told me to buy. Wierd thing was, it was drizzling a little bit when I got out of the hotel, grey skies, and every indication like it was going to rain. Funny thing as well, it got slightly heavier and heavier by the hour.

We left for the F1 track again, and it had already rained a little bit, strong winds still persisting. When we got to the site, we were looking at the crew dismantling the equipment in the box-tent, the BMWs were gone, and everything was being packed up. Later we found out that our second day gig was cancelled because of the incoming typhoon! So, we headed back to our hotel, had our dinner and hung out in our hotel rooms playing drinking games, while contemplating and wondering (albeit briefly) on whether we'll get to fly back to Singapore the next day, or whether we'll get stuck in Shanghai for an extra day or so. The winds and rain got much heavier and heavier as the night progressed, the trees looked like they were being thrown around, and the wind draft was so strong, it even knocked against the windows and rattling them. We were getting reports on TV on the evacuation of some of the inner parts of Shanghai from the typhoon. It looks like the part of Shanghai we were in only caught the sideswipe of the typhoon, while the rural areas got hit real bad.

Sunday, 12 Sept: When we woke up, the sky was clear blue, and it looked like that there wasn't a storm thenight before! WE left our hotel early, around 12pm to the airport to avoid any possible traffic jams from the typhoon aftermath. We actually arrived at the airport really early, and we hung out until it was time to check in, and board our plan. And for those who were wondering: NO, I did not miss my flight! Heh heh heh...

After getting back to Singapore at night, me and John checked into Bencoolen Hotel and ate at the nearby Kopitiam food court, and then caught the replay of the US Open tennis match, where we found out that Roger Federer defeated the ever-strong Andre Agassi in the finals. We were so poofed we just crashed almost as soon as we got into the hotel.

Monday, 13 Sept: Our keyboard player, Indra, that went on the Shanghai trip with us offered to drive us around town to buy our bus tickets back to KL, as well as a little shopping. I bought Harry Connick Jr's new album, Occasion, a sax-piano duet with Branford Marsalis (an awesome album, by the way, and one you won't get in KL for a long time, or ever I think!) and Dave Koz's debut album (I previously bought that album on CD, but I seemed to have lost it when I borrowed it to somebody). We then caught the 6pm bus back to KL, where we arrived at around 10:30pm. My parents picked us up, we went to mamak to eat, and I sent John home.

The next couple of days, was just resting, getting bus ticket to Singapore again, and rehearsals for Noryn's show at Avanti's on Friday.

The gig went fairly well, we did a whole bunch of tunes from Stevie Wonder, and some of Noryn's own original compositions.


Joshua Redman in Singapore... stay tuned!

To be continued...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mr. Gambus Quintet Live at Little Havana

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of news and posts from the last two weeks. I had just come back from two outstation trips: the first was Shanghai for a BMW car launch gig, and I just returned from Singapore yesterday from watching a concert by Joshua Redman, an awesome saxophonist and jazz musician.

Here's the latest gig update from me.

But anyway, here’s my latest gig update. Sorry for the late notice, but here it is:

Mr Gambus Quintet, Live at Little Havana, KL

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Mr. Gambus, Farid Ali

If you’ve missed Mr. Gambus shows at Sunrise Jazz Festival and Alexis Bistro, here’s your chance to come see and listen to us again. We’re playing at Little Havana, Changkat Bukit Bintang in KL tomorrow night, Friday 23rd September 2005. We’ll be playing original compositions by Mr. Gambus, FARID ALI, himself, as well as some other standard jazz repertoire to brighten up your Friday night.


Venue: Little Havana, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
Date: Friday, 23 September 2005
Time: 9:30pm

Mr. Gambus Quintet

FARID ALI – gambus, guitar and vocals
ERIC LI – piano, keyboards
JULIAN CHAN – saxophones, flute
APENG – drums
FLY – electric bass

Mr. Gambus’ debut album, TURNING POINT, will also be available for sale at the venue.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Ya know I'm back... I'm back..."

Hey all.

I'm back from my Shanghai trip. Nice to be back home. Will be blogging again soon, I think.

Thing is, I'll be going to Singapore again (I went to Shanghai via Singapore), this weekend to check out Joshua Redman's Elastic Band concert at Esplanade which is on Tuesday next week.. yay!

Some quick gig updates:

I'm playing with Noryn and Soulfingerz this Friday at Avanti's. Will blog that tomorrow, or day after.

Later.. I'm going to bed.

* * * * *

Gig update:

Noryn Aziz and Soulfingerz @ Avanti's Restaurant, Sunway

Prepare to be stunned by the sultry, jazz vocals of Noryn Aziz, backed by her band Soulfingerz. She'll be singing some adult contemporary tunes from Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and more. Backed by powerhouse band, Soulfingerz, with Jason Voo, musical director and keyboards, Julian Chan on saxophones, David Juis on guitar, Fariz Adlan on bass, and Jimmy Tan on drums.

Date and Time: 16 Sept 2005, Friday. Music starts 10pm
Venue: Avanti Italian-American Ristorante, Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel, Persiaran Lagoon, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Reservations: Call 03-7492 8000 ext. 3176

Monday, September 05, 2005

Adidas Extreme Road Challenge..

Sunday 4th Sept - Adidas Extreme Road Challenge (aka King of the Road or KOTR)

I guess they didn't want to call it a 10K anymore, because it certainly isn't. LOL!

Anyway, from my last race (Subang Jaya 10K), early July, I was rather looking forward to participating in this one, just to race again. It seemed like a long time since then. This time around, the designated route is the 'DOUBLE HILL' route. Means, LOTS of hills.

Waking up

Like usual, I only had about 3 over hours of sleep. Came back home from Alexis after Denise's show at almost 2.30am (I was supposed to leave at 12.30pm, but the show was just too good to leave halfway!). Before I slept, I prepared my usual things for the race - Accelerade, PowerBar Recovery Drink, socks, running kit, clothes change, etc. I'm using my New Balance 890 (cushioning) with my orthotics for this race. Decided not to take the risk of not using the orthotics for my flat feet.

I woke up just before 6am, thanks to Devin for calling me. I totally didn't hear my watch alarm. Got freshened up fairly quickly and had a quick bite of peanut butter jam toast, and a mug of Milo. Picked Devin and headed to Dataran Merdeka.

Like the smart fella I am, I decided to park at Lake Gardens, so we can get a few minutes of warm-up jog to Dataran Merdeka before the race starts. The only drawback about parking there is walking back there AFTER the race. There were quite a number of people already huddling up in the kennels from the 10k and the 7k categories, and other huddlers who still haven't gone in yet. We entered the 10k kennel and just hung around, did a couple of stretches and just waited for the gun to fire off.

After the cheerleading squad performance, the Sultan Abd Samad clock (Big Ben..?? Not!) hit 7.30am, but no flag off yet. The race official went, ".. okay we are going to start the race soon.." *BANG* and off we went. Pity her.. she didn't even finish the sentence, much less do a countdown, and the gun went off.. hahaha!!

First 3k.... what? Hills already ah...??

Not my first time doing this route from Dataran Merdeka, but after the first 300 - 500 metres, the route already heads up a hill behind Bank Negara. It's never easy to hit up a hill so quickly after just starting off in the race. But like my training dictates, go easy on the pace in the early stages of the race. I tried to maintain a steady breathing 2-in/3-out pace for most of the race, even in the hills.

Note: My heart rate monitor watch went bonkers on me 2 days ago, probably due for a battery change. So I didn't use it this time around. It'll be the first time in a long time where I have to be extra mindful about my pace.

It's been a long time since I've run up Bukit Tunku. I definitely want to start training long runs up this way again. I haven't had a decent long run in a long time too. But it feels good to run up this route again. The roads are much wider and easier to run on this time around.

About 5k +... WHAT? MORE hills?? Wah liao ehhh...

This is the killer stretch of the whole race.. the hill up Jalan Laman Tunku (I think.. correct me if I'm wrong!). It goes uphill (about 10% incline, at least) for at least 1km plus all the way until it flattens out at Persiaran Bukit Tunku, slopes up a bit and downhill all the way to the Bukit Tunku/Jalan Sultan Salahuddin interchange. In the uphill, most of the runners who I thought pushed themselves pretty early have already started walking up the hill, and hammering it after a few minutes of recovery. Like usual, I challenged myself to remain on the run (even though with baby steps), but try to maintain a steady, comfortable effort.

Met our good friend, Albert from the New Balance shop at Bukit Bintang. He sure was huffin' and puffin' up the hill. Told him to take it easy and not over exert. Especially up that hill. But he was doing great. Kudos Albert.

Last 2k... aiyo... I think I tired already ahh.. but cannot stop.. Oooh.. got leng lui?

At the flatter portions before Persiaran Tunku, I was catching up with this cute looking, nice bodied, chick in blue Dri-Fits. I maintain a steady pace behind her to admire some "art", but later realised that she was only slowing down to accomodate running with her male running partner (boyfriend? Hmmph! heh heh). On the last 3km downhill after Persiaran Bukit Tunku, the both of them picked up the pace, and I couldn't really catch up. I didn't want to push myself yet, so I just maintained my rhythm. Bugga...

Oh yeah, halfway through the race, we passed by a water stop. Guess what? THEY RAN OUT OF WATER? Like how INFINITELY STUPID can they get???? You know is a !#$%^&* race, make sure have lots of water in stock, man! *sigh* Malaysian standard of organising races.

Once I reached Jalan Parlimen, I started pushing the pace a tad bit after passing Lake Gardens (can I take my car and drive to the finish line instead ah... helppp.. ). I still couldn't really catch up to the blue leng lui even at that pace... never mind, just keep your rhythm. You don't want to pancit so close to the finish, right?

Sprint to the finish!!! YAAAAYYY... *pant... pant... pant...*

At the last 500m, once I passed the roundabout at Bank Negara, I actually put some speed and I managed to "cut vegetable" (or overtake.. Pacemaker gang slang..) past the blue dri-fit leng lui and her boyfriend. At that point, I already don't care lah.. I just want to finish the race good and strong..

Saw Tey.. said hi.. and this is what I got:

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(".. you know I'm FAT, I'm FAT.. you know it.. you know..!!" Weird al Yankovic)

Thanks Tey for the pic!

I sprinted all the way to the finish line and clocked 74:58 for 10.7k. Not exactly what I would've hoped for, but oh well, what the heck. It was a good run for me nonetheless. I felt good throughout the whole run. And I think I was more satisfied with that than the timing itself.

Met a few friends after the race: Alexis, Karen, Ronnie aka pm1, Ryan, and a few others. Didn't see some other usual faces this time around... maybe they're prepping for Putrajaya Half?

Race Analysis:

Timing - Wasn't too thrilled about the timing. Could be lack of training on my part. *update* On the other hand, after careful consideration, I conclude that my timing of 74:58 over this 10.7k route is something I should be proud of, in this case. Why? Gauging from my 69:36 of the mostly flat Subang Jaya 10k, with this Adidas double hill (or TRIPLE hill according to Greg) route, I think it may be a small but significant improvement for me. (*Thanks Greg*)

Pacing - I was quite happy with the pacing in the race. I was careful on not starting out too fast, and losing wind quickly. I have noticed that I am able to pace better if I had a warm-up run prior to the race, than when I did not. Based on the pace calculator, running 74:58 over 10k, I was running today at an average pace of 7:00min/km. It's probably expected due to the hills. I think I would've done better if the route was more flat. So, I'm still quite happy with it.

Form - I felt comfortable with my running form. Less tiring, maybe all those exercises, runs, cycling, and dengue helped a bit by making me lose weight. Found that I my strides are definitely wider and faster than it used to be, and I don't feel terribly "pancit" when I run. A few kgs off my body really does help the running! So to all weight-loss enthusiasts out there... start working out.. reduce your diet to lose weight...

* * * * *

Looks like I might not do any 21K this year. The dengue fever really threw my rhythm off my training. Upcoming half-marathon races include Putrajaya Half (next week), PJ Half (fortnight), and Singapore Marathon in early December.

Also, the following two weeks will be a busy week for me. I'll be heading to Shanghai for another 2 shows there this week. Going to Singapore first on Tuesday, a rehearsal and flying off Wednesday night to Shanghai. Will be there for about 6 days, before heading back to Singapore on the 12th and KL back on the 13th. So any chance of doing a half-marathon is virtually non-existent. But I am aiming for KL International Marathon next year... 21K, if they have that category.

I definitely won't be doing Singapore Marathon this year too. I might be involved in the Penang Jazz Festival this year end on the 3rd and 4th December. So, it'll clash with the marathon event. Too bad. Could've gotten a nice discount as a returning participant.

Anyway, I might not be blogging for the next couple of days... or for the week, even. I might write about my Shanghai experience, if I feel up to it. I am feeling rather lazy to blog these days. I dunno why. Maybe I'm just tired of it.

Well, signing off for now...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, what do you know...

It's my birthday today! Usually I'm not so keen on telling the whole world.

But I'm 27, and this year, i don't give a damn!


Thanks to all who gave their well wishes... thank you, thank you very much!! Thanks for being a part of my 27th year of life.

* * * * *

I just got back from Alexis Ampang to watch Denise Mininfield, where my family gave me a good surprise birthday cake, and the musicians Greg, Lewis, Andy, Mac, Suflan, and friends all celebrated with me.

This is definitely one of the best birthday celebrations I've had. FYI: I haven't celebrated a single birthday since I got back from my studies in Australia, as I was engaged with performances during those years, on my birthday. And today I actually got to celebrate with my family and closest friends. Awesome.

By the way, if you're reading this post, and you didn't go and check out Denise, you've still got one more night to check her out at Alexis Ampang. She's just simply awesome! All aspiring vocalists should check her out... that woman is so full of soul!!!!!!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Merdeka.. Paul Ponnudurai.. and the week that was

Happy 48th year of Independence, Malaysia (and 42 for EAST Malaysia!)!!!!

Yeah, yeah, yeah.. it's a few days late, but still counts la. So, 48th year of non-colonial rule. There had been some advances and there are regressions. Can only pray we Malaysians will work towards a more educated, well-informed future (assuming the Powers that Rule Malaysia follow suit).

Paul Ponnudurai @ Alexis Ampang

So what did I do for Merdeka eve? I went to watch the awesome Paul Ponnudurai at Alexis Ampang with some friends. For those who have heard of him, you know of his awesome talent, as a singer, guitarist, an entertainer, and most importantly, a fantastica musician. For those who haven't, let me tell you... he's one of the best Malaysian-born musician (too bad he's based in Singapore now) in town. An awesome guitarist, and vocalist. Superb musical ears.

Anyway, he played a lot cover tunes solo, with a Godin guitar. So what's so special about that you ask? Well, when he plays the guitar to back his vocals, it sounds like there's a whole band backing him up! He's mastered a guitar technique where he can play basslines, chords, in a realtime musical sequence.. ie. simultaneously. That requires a lot of practice on the instrument, I tell ya!

Covers included jazz standards such as Days of Wine and Roses, Misty; pop cover tunes such as Ain't No Sunshine, and torn-apart version of Sesame Street, and even Hotel California, a tune he detests.. but made tolerable by mutilating the tune like it was sung by an Indian, or possibly a Rastafarian!

One of my favorite lines that he casually says in the Alexis show, just before he plays a self-rearranged cover tune is, "... I will take apart, masticate, and take it inside out... why? BECAUSE I CAN!". AHahhaha... that's how good he is. And also one thing about this man... he's got a LOT of SOUL!!!

If you have a chance to see him... go for it!

#gossip Gathering at The Curve

Back in my early college days, I used to hang out in the virtual, real-time friend-making world of IRC or Internet Relay Chat. The very mention of it now, makes it sound so archaic. And in some ways it is. With MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ, Friendster and more, IRC may not be the only virtual friend-making tool used by IT aficionadoes. But it was really an in-thing in those days for us.

One of the chatrooms that I frequent is one called #gossip (in the Malaysian server). Basically a bunch of us Malaysians talking about a lot of stuff. I went in a little later than the rest, though. So, like many other chatroom endeavours, we also have met up face-to-face in person.
Read more about us in my friend, Yvonne's blog.

from l-r: Alex (bigbadWOF), Yvonne (oOlUi), mói ([-KoZ-]), Jon (pikey), and Masrey (DeXTeR)

Anyway, we met up at the jam-packed The Curve shopping centre, and we went to the Pancake House to have lunch. Attendees were myself, Yvonne (the founder of #gossip), Jonathan (aka Pikey), Alex, and Masrey.

The last time we actually met for makan was at least 3 years ago, at California Pizza Kitchen in KLCC. And everything was different in this outing. Everybody's interests and endeavours have changed. The stuff we talked about also changed. And that is a good thing.

It was nice seeing them again.