Thursday, January 31, 2008

I got it!

Got the room...


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mingus! Mingus! Mingus!

Just got back from the Iridium in Manhattan with CH... went to watch the Mingus Dynasty Band. It's my second jazz show I've checked out to date!

MAN!! Those guys are crazy!!

The benefits of being in NYC... checking out the best cats, and the most amazing music in the hub of jazz!!

Will write about it on All Dat Jazz soon!


Read all about it here...

First day..

Just came back from my first day of class today, it was a Jazz Composition class by Michael Mossman. Since it's a first class for many of us, ie. new intake students like myself, the class consisted of a placement test. Mike wasn't there, so Antonio Hart passed out the test papers, and a homework for next week! Ack..

Anyway, some updates from the past week:

- Did my first gig in NYC, last Friday! Yeah.. but that's also thanks to Chern Hwei who roped me in. We played at a Korean bar called Maxim at Stanford Hotel West 32nd Street in Manhattan. It was a 3-piece gig, with CH (violin), Michelle Marie (guitar), and myself. Simple gig, we played some standards as well as a couple of CH's tunes. Got $30 from it.. haha... not bad for a first gig!

- Also managed to get another gig for sometime in March, backing an acrobatic dance show. This was also coincidental. Was hanging out with CH, when he went for the demo recording, and I had my horn with me. After a couple of tunes, the bandleader wanted to do some jazz-like kinda piece (most of this were quite improvised, by the way), and he just asked if I wanted to play along. Of course, I agreed. After that, he liked what I did, and he asked me to play this gig as well! Nice!! Thanks to CH again!

- Met Antonio Hart.. finally! If you didn't know already... he's one kick ass saxophone player... played around the scene and the world as a leader, as well as with Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, Hilton Ruiz, and more. And he's teaching right here in Queens College... and he'll be my saxophone professor! Woo hoo.. can't wait.

- Moved in to the new room, same house. But still not confirmed if I'll get the place. Will be meeting the landlord tomorrow. Wish me luck.. (yes, mom, I'll use the ring!).

- Went to watch some singer-songwriter gig at The Bitter End with CH, as he was playing there with one of them. Sad to say, the fella he was playing with.. man.. really sucked. The guy before him was really good, though. Good guitar player, as well as a singer. By the way, The Bitter End, at Bleecker St, is in between East and West Village in Manhattan. Apparently it's the place where Bob Dylan cut his teeth and became famous! Go figure.. nice rustic little spot!

- I've copied some pics onto my computer, will post them whenever I can. So wait for them... might post them on Facebook first.

Till then..


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

1st week in NYC.. cont'd

Day 2 - 01/18 (Friday)

Got up late, as expected. Was still a little jet-lagged, so stayed home for most part. Managed to get a prepaid number from T-Mobile..well, SORT of prepaid. The plan is something like postpaid but without contract, comes with a monthly contract. At night we went out a while, shopped at JCPenney at Queens Plaza, I managed to get a nice windbreaker jacket for running, and went to the Village area. Stood in front of renown jazz club Blue Note. Didn't go in of course, WAY too expensive. McCoy Tyner was playing that night. Met up with Rozhan and some of his former Berklee buddies, and went for some drinks around Upper East Side (a.k.a Alphabet City.. for it's alphabetically named streets). Hung out a short while and headed back to crash some more.

Day 3 - 01/19 (Saturday)

Another real lazy day for me. Walked around Jackson Heights area, from 89 to 82 St, and managed to open a Citibank bank account with the phone account record. Bank officer was a nice Pinoy lady who helped me and was a good person to have a conversation with, too. After that, I just went home and crashed, for a couple of hours... still jet-lagged. Hung out for a while, then went to sleep again for the night.

Day 5 - 01/20 (Sunday)

Went out for an early morning run just around the area. It wasn't easy running in the cold. Ran for about slightly over half an hour. Didn't run for 2 weeks, so I was trying to take it easy as well. But I felt good after that. It was nice to run again, and was quite an experience running in the cold below 0℃, not easy especially with the windchill.

Had some sandwich for breakfast, and was watching a bit of Stargate on my laptop. Managed to practice my horn a little bit as well! Later on in the afternoon, had to help Chern Hwei finish up some of his work with some classical charts, and was due for delivery on the same day. Rushed to Grand Central Station to take a Metro North train to New Rochelle NY, a nice suburb.

Then we hung out back at the house, had some wine, then crashed.


Did laundry.

Went out to town on my own - my first subway trip alone - to try to catch this Piano Marathon performance, in conjunction with the reopening of this performance hall called, Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Arts Center. I wanted to catch Vijay Iyer play, but couldn't. Too many people queuing up, and probably didn't have enough seats either. Had coffee with one of CH's friends, then went alone to Roberto's Woodwinds shop. Oh man.. I've never seen so many horns lined up for display in my life!!! Can't wait to try some of them later.

Now here I am, not freezing my balls out there now...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 1 - Doing okay!

Hi all,

Just wanted to let y'all know I'm doing okay here. Weather's cold, some days are 0°C and high and lows are around 4℃ to even -8℃ I think. I still haven't found a place, and my friend Chern Hwei's been gracious enough to let me bunk in with him until I do.

Just a recap of what I did since I arrived:

01/16/08 9pm +8 GMT (American system mah...)

Flight was alright, for most part, took off around 9pm. Reached Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok in almost 2 hours. Then had to wait in transit for slightly over an hour. Airport food was expensive, man. And Thai baht was definitely stronger now.. I got 840 baht for RM100! Go figure. Had some Lebanese-style food, falafel kebab. Satisfying but not too heavy on the stomach, had enough of Thai food for sure. Called my friend Chee Meng who's still in BKK. After about an hour, I walked around the shops some more, and decided to check out the terminal I was supposed to check into. They had secondary security checks, so had to open up my hand carry bags, and my horn cases. But it was painless. Waited for another half hour at the waiting area before boarding. Found my seat... but my Kajang kakis joke about me sitting next to a fat guy came true! And it's a window seat! Sheettt!!! It's a Bangla fella in his late-40s... nuts. Even tried changing seats later, but to no avail, those who had extra seats took it for themselves. Biatch.

Direct flight to JFK airport was uneventful, but my runny nose from several days of not sleeping properly made it a little uncomfortable (and so did trying to get out to the main aisle to the restroom!). Sleep pattern in the plane was like... eat.. watch a show.. sleep.. toilet.. sleep.. eat.. watch a show.. sleep.. toilet.. for about three times. Next thing i knew, we've arrived! My first sight of the country was already amazing. From the plane you could see a large pool of light (street lights, house lights) that shows how big the city is! Amazing.

01/17/08 around 6am

Got off the plane and into the immigration and customs. It was a fairly long wait. They had two lines, one for visitors and the other for US citizens. And there were a lot of African people and Jews that were visiting that day. Immigration was a breeze, luckily. Officer didn't ask too many questions. Went to collect baggage. First stupid thing I encountered: I had to pay $3 to rent a luggage cart.. like WTF?? And I didn't have change, so I had to use credit card (sorry folks!). Got into customs, they asked some basic questions like: Did you bring any plants, raw food, etc. I said "No.". And that was that. I was out of the customs and into the arrival hall. YES!

Called Chern Hwei. He was late (or rather I was early as well), and he was still at home when I called. Then bought myself a cup of coffee and a nice cheese bagel at Au Bon Pain. My first American meal. Go figure. Walked around the hall a little, and waited for CH. When he came we took a cab (chinese driver, cos he said was cheaper), and straight to CH's house in Jackson Heights. It was 0℃ at the time. Chilled out for a while, then went out for breakfast with CH's housemate at Flushing Chinatown, via subway train, for some breakfast - Hot Soy milk with yao char guai! Nice!

Tried to open a bank account at a Citibank in Flushing, but they required secondary ID with proof of address. Bugger. Took a bus to Queens College and went to the Int'l Students' Office to report in, then to Admissions to change address to CH's house, Health Services to submit immunization form, then finally to the Aaron Copland School of Music to see the program director, Michael Mossman. Luckily, he was in! He signed me in, and gave me a breakdown of the subjects I'll be doing. Cool. Tried to look for my saxophone lecturer, Antonio Hart, but he wasn't in.

Took another bus and subway to Times Square in Manhattan, and saw all those tall buildings (think I Am Legend), and CH was showing me the spots that were in the movie. Saw Wall St, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, CNN building at Time Warner building (which also houses Jazz @ Lincoln Center!!), Carnegie Hall, and even Julliard School of Music. Went to the Lincoln Center building, and then Barnes and Nobles store (man.. that's huge! And all those books!!!!). Went back home to Jackson Heights to crash for a couple of hours, then we headed out again.

We went back to Times Square to the Jazz @ Lincoln Center to check out an after hours gig - Etienne Charles Quintet - at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Etienne's one of CH's friends, and he had a damn nice band, too. Dizzy's is a nice jazz spot (not that cheap though). Randy Weston's band was playing the first two sets, but we didn't want to spend too much on it yet, so we saw the after hours gig only. Etienne's band played entirely original material, and it was great. Read about my brief experience at the All Dat Jazz website, here. Met up with another two of CH's friends, both violinists. After the gig we went to a nice japanese/korean fusion restaurant. Even had some nice vegetarian varieties too. After that it was home back to bed!! Best thing about the subway, it runs 24/7. So taxis are an option!

Talk about really getting around on the first day! To top that, I was really jet-lagged AND underslept from the past few days. So I passed out really quick. At this time of writing, the effects have lessened, but still need to relax a bit more to get accustomed to the time.

Haven't started running yet though. Might do it tomorrow morning.

Anyway, that's it for today. Will write more later.

Hasta la vista...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Greetings from Queens, NYC!

I'm here!!!! FINALLY!!!

Arrived safe and sound.. and not much trouble getting out of customs and immigration, thank God!

Hey Mom and Dad, I'm here!! Wooo hoooo...

Will write more later. I'm at Chern Hwei's place at the mo.. stomach growling from hunger. Will try to post some pics when time permits. This fella is already telling me that we're going downtown tonight to check out some gigs.. wah liao. I'm still groggy from the lack of sleep, now developing a slight runny nice.. basket.

Ok, later. Just wanted to let y'all know I'm here and alright!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

D-Day.. to NYC!

Today's the day!

I'm leaving for New York in a couple of hours. I'm a lot of things at once right now - excited, sad, exhausted, energetic, contemplative, among other things. But one thing just sticks in my head...

YES!!!! I'm finally going!!


Anyway, had a nice farewell dinner with my friends and colleagues in the musicians' circle last night, but I did not expect such a big turnout... THREE big tables!! Wow.. thanks to all of you guys for coming last night, it was a great night for me. I really appreciate your presence and your kindness! You guys are the BESTEST!!


Well, after today, it might be a while before I'll start posting again. But I reckon I'll have more time to post, with pictures! Once I've settled down a bit, I'll be updating this blog again.

Till then, wish me luck!!

See you soon!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

An open letter from me

Hi everyone,

With great pleasure, I would like to inform you that I am FINALLY leaving for the US for my further studies in Music... and YES, it's finally confirmed! It has been a long wait, as it had been a very long process to come to this juncture, but it has finally come to fruition. I will depart for NYC this Wed, Jan 16th.

Overall, I'll probably be away for at least 2 years, for the duration of my study. What happens after graduation still remains to be seen, depending on the opportunities I can source out there. If there's a possibility of me working a lot overseas after my studies, then I will probably remain overseas for a fairly extensive period of time. However, I do hope we can keep in touch, whether its via email, MSN and/or Yahoo! Messenger, iChat, Skype, etc. As much as I wanted to go overseas, I'm very much fond of home in Malaysia, and it will still remain home, until by some unforeseen circumstance it will cease to remain so. As such, I would like to be very much kept posted on what happens back home.

To cut to the long speech: I have to say the last seven to eight years have been really great for me, especially in music. I have made a lot of friends and business associates, and I have been enriched by that friendship. And this is just and addition to the great friends I've already had before that. My career in music in Malaysia had been such an amazing experience, good and bad ones included, and I've had the opportunity to do so much and work with so many great people in the business and I've learnt so much with each job or project or performance that I had done. I would like to extend my gratitude to each and everyone of you for that.

Anyway, without making it sound like a presidential or Grammys speech (it probably already does!), I would like to mention and extend a special "Thank You" to the few key people who have in many ways helped me to get to where I am right now:

My family - Mom, Dad, and my brother Gavin for such tremendous support and love, no words can express my gratitude and my feelings for them! If not for them, none of this would have been possible.... EVER!! I am definitely an extremely blessed person to have been born into this family with these great parents and siblings! You understood what being real parents are, and I really hope I have done you proud, and I will continue to do so. I hope with music, it can show some of it, if not all!

My grandma - I think there's where the gene came from, however recessive it might had been!

Kay Ti - my childhood BEST friend.. you're probably more than that... a more equivalent of a brother! I really appreciate the friendship and the brotherhood we have since as long as I could remember, as well as the fact that we have maintained it still. I cannot even say in words how much you being in my life mean to me. You were always there as a second head for me, whenever I somehow lost mine along the way, with your amazing knowledge and wisdom despite at such young age, being such a guiding light.

My KKFC brothers - you guys are the support pillars at home for me! Your unending and unconditional friendship reminds me at all times where home is (even though some of you ain't in Kajang no more!). You guys are ALWAYS there whenever anyone of us is in need. I will miss those night-outs with you guys, snooker, Half-Life, and nightly mamak sessions, and the occasional outings to Genting, clubs, etc. I've had some of the best memories with you fellas (and some pretty icky ones *wink*), and I will cherish them all.

Thomas Theseira and Greg Lyons - my saxophone (and more!) mentors, and most of all, you're my great friends! You have helped me make a dream possible. You have showed me that there is hope that one is able to achieve something one never thought would've been possible. You have helped paved a road for me which was previously non-existent, and that I can go to this road and with that, experience something I wouldn't have been able to experience otherwise. You have also showed me what it means to be a real musician, to tread the path less taken, and the life that comes with it. And most importantly, you have shown me how to be a real person in this path I have taken.

My closest bandmates and musician brothers and sisters - Eddie, Justin, AJ, Charles, Cher Siang, Vincent, Martin, John, Eric, Fly, Rozhan, Tok Khon, Gigi, Chee Meng, Benjamin and more. I have had the opportunity to play with some of the best young musicians in KL, and I learnt a whole lot, bit by bit, from each time I get to play with them. Not only are they my bandmates, but my good friends. Being on the bandstand with them did not only mean just getting together and just playing our instruments, but sharing and feeding off each other's positive energy. Being off the bandstand, they're like my second family. I definitely have made some of the best music with you guys!

David Gomes and Junji Delfino and the fab five - for welcoming me into your extended family, and not just in music. I've learnt so much from playing and hanging out with you guys, not to mention laugh a whole lot!! And thanks for being one of the few people who showed me the art of soul in music, you guys just give out so much in each performance!! And I'm glad I had been part of it over the last several years!!

My other musical seniors and mentors - Michael Veerapen, Farid Ali, Jose Thomas, David Yee, Aubrey Suwito, Mac Chew, Jenny Chin, Acis, Jonathan Lee, and practically everyone I've ever worked with. Thank you for your patience and your guidance. I've had the best time working with all of you guys.

Jazz venue people - Evelyn from No Black Tie, Elyna and Kor Shing at Bangkok Jazz, Groove Junction, Rick's Cafe Casablanca, Top Room (too bad it's gone). Thanks for having my play at your places, it has been such a great learning experience!

My music juniors, y'all know who you are, keep up the work and the passion. Thanks for the opportunity to work with you fellas, too. We'll play together soon!

Last but not least... God.. for the Gift that The Almighty has blessed me with.

I might have missed some people out, or rather a whole lot, but my gratitude extends to all of you as well.

Anyway, I'm not leaving for good or anything, but I will be gone for quite a little while. At the moment, I reckon I'l be back during this summer holidays as I'm working on a project which I hope will take off. Please do keep in touch. I would love to hear from you all every once in a while. If you're in MSN, or Yahoo, or GTalk, or Skype and don't have my contact, send me an email, and I'll give you my IDs for all of them.

I will be updating my blog sometime when I get there, and probably will have the opportunity to update it more often. So if you want to keep tabs on me, log on to my blog: Of course I won't tell EVERYTHING but most of it, at least the one I want to say anyway! Heh heh.

Last but not least, if you're on Facebook, then you've probably been invited. So, I'm cordially inviting everyone to my farewell gig this Sunday night at Bangkok Jazz.


Venue: BANGKOK JAZZ, Chulan Square, Jalan Raja Chulan Time: 9pm onwards. Cover Charge: RM15 (sorry lah, still gotta make some cash, right?? New York weii.. very the ex..) For more info, check out Thanks!

PS: Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Back from Bangkok!

I just got back from a 3-day trip from Bangkok. Went there with Eddie. And what a fun three days it was. Not to mention a stomach-churning one.. with the spicy food and all!

I went up there from Penang after my auntie's (she's 2 years older than me, in case you were wondering) wedding! And I've wanted to visit Bangkok before going off to NYC, and now I managed to do that. It was great, as I got to visit two friends I really haven't seen for a little while.. CM and Sharon (who's been there working for the past 5 years!). It was really great that I got to see them again, before I leave. And they even took care of us a little bit while we were there, taking us for food and entertainment, etc.

Anyway, I won't write much about it at the moment. I'll write a little if I have the time, and maybe post some photos.

Now I just have to worry about next week...


Good night.