Acoustic Jazz Nite @ Rumba 2010

We were at Le Méridien, in Rumba Latin Grill & Bar, for Acoustic Jazz Nite 2010, brought to us by Bandwidth and Cado Creatives (CCEP). By 9pm, when things kicked off, the place was buzzing and at almost full capacity.

Meteor Crates were first on. Last time I saw them they were a five-piece with a violinist, this time they were seven with a sax player. They are an alternative rock band, and Boy said they were playing jazz for the first time. “Blue Bossa” was their first song, followed by an original written by Saidin, which garnered a lot of applause from the audience. It was clearly a familiar song here, and had a Matt Bianco feel about it: smooth and pretty. The band played “Fly Me To the Moon” with a soft start, before switching to a ska beat, and they had fun with a medley of tunes before wrapping up their set.

Richado Tawith, head of Cado Creatives took the mic. He was the emcee anyway, but then said he and his friends wanted to perform and do their bit to support jazz too! Great! The event organisers want to perform as well! He clearly loves music, both making it himself and creating a stage for others to perform. Richado’s band Reek-A-Dawn was missing its usual members, but he was nicely backed by percussionist James Simon, and keyboardist Donald Mukriz. After singing his first song in Malay, Richado talked with the audience. It was a personal touch, talking about how jazz is a “high status” kind of music and new for him – there’s structure in the chords, but freedom with the melody.

Richado started with a nice version of “L.O.V.E”, including some cool scatting, and then a Latin groove song which he called “You Like It On The Couch.” He said it sounds kinky but actually it’s just about a game on Facebook. If you say so Richado.. 🙂

Next on stage was Rene Barrow, who warmed up with some lovely scatting as he did a quick sound check. He had a beautiful Ovation guitar, with a rounded back which made me think of the gambus. He sang “Summertime”, very slowly at first, taking his time with the changes, before settling into a laid back rhythm, very nice with his rich, easy voice. Rene said he was born here but went away as a teenager, but he’s back now and with the Sabah Cultural Board. He’s just cut a new album. He sang Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” next, followed by Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World”. His own composition “Sitting Next To The Sea” was written when he was in West Africa, and he sang it in a jazz way, instead of its usual folk rock style. He wound up his set with some “vocal trumpet” experimentation, and it was a warm greeting from a singer-songwriter who’s clearly going to be around for a while.

Next, I learned some new words.

The meaning: “Lightning Shatters the Darkness”.

The words? Quadro Forte.

There is no other way to describe this band. These guys had passion which burst from their hearts, lungs and instruments. They assaulted us with beautiful music.

Emmanuel Christo, their lead singer, explained that they were originally four members – hence the Quadro – but since then a bassist has joined the band. He introduced the band members, saying they are all university graduates with music qualifications, before naming them. (My thanks to Yvonne Chung, Head of Music at Sabah Institute of Arts, who supplemented my notes.)

  • Percussionist/drummer/cajon – Kevin Coma
  • Guitarists – Boly George and Delbert Tiu
  • Bassist – Aldoreo Marunsai
  • Vocalist – Emmanuel Christo

All are SIA students, except Kevin who is at UMS.

[ I remembered that I had seen Quadro Forte once before. It was at the SEDCO complex. I had not been in KK long and hardly knew anyone, and I met Bandwidth’s Arthur Lee for the first time, there. Quadro Forte had just won the Akustika Prima 2009 competition organized by the Sabah Cultural Board (former bassist was SIA student, Innocentclair Malim), and they played an absolutely mind-blowing version of “Sayang Kinabalu” with a band called SIA Jazz Syndicate, whom I had yet to learn about. It was the ultimate fusion of rhythm and melody: traditional dance, jazz, Latin. ]

Tonight, Quadro Forte greeted us with a slow Spanish start to “My Way”, before breaking into a full-blown Latin charge. The audience whooped and whistled, it was clear that KK loves this band.

Emmanuel Christo said they would next perform “Soy”. Soy or Estoy in Spanish means ‘I am’, and he described their interpretation of this as, “Our love for friends, family and everyone”, which is a fine definition of Who I Am, as delivered by a Sabahan.

Quadro Forte launched into “Soy” with gusto. Their harmony was powerful and confident. Only Emmanuel had a mic, but you could hear every singer. After the audience stopped cheering, Emmanuel explained that the band members are fans of Gypsy Kings, and they believe the spirit of the Kings lives in them. Who could possibly doubt it? They finished their set with “Volare”, which means ‘To Fly’ in Spanish, and with all the musicians playing blinding solos, we flew with them.

After the Lucky Draw, Appy took over, riding high after recently winning 1st runner up in the Open Mic Nite competition. He and his friends played a set which included an original song about lost love. Appy said he wrote about his own feelings in that song. In a slow version of Jobim’s “Girl from Ipanema”, there was a nice guitar break, and Appy demonstrated his smooth deep voice. He wound up with a jazzy R&B song “For You”, which he said he wrote a few weeks earlier, and which usually had a reggae beat, so this was a new twist.

We ended the night with the pros. Finger style guitarist Daniel Mojina got up on stage, closed his eyes and played freely, while bassist and RTM Sabah Kombo leader Moses de Silva checked his amp levels. Saxophonist Teddy Chin Jr. fiddled about with the microphone stand and chatted casually to us. He got the crowd to say “Good Evening” to each of the musicians, like we were obedient kids greeting our uncles.

One of the loveliest things about gigs in KK is how personal they are. Almost everyone in the house would have had friends or relatives there, and Teddy intended to make it feel like that:

“Ok lah. Let’s do this kampung style,” he said. “What do YOU think is the sexiest song for the sax?” Lots of loud suggestions!

They launched into “Careless Whisper” which of course, is very sexy. Then Teddy said: “I think we need something more here – Annabel!”  Then RTM cellist Annabel Tiu got on stage and took the mic. Whoa!

Daniel patted a beat on his guitar, recording it with a phrase sampler, and they were away – it was Jazz. Smooth and in the groove.

Daniel took a long solo in true finger-style, playing bass, chords and melody all by himself, then everyone joined in and Annabel’s voice coaxed us into “Ain’t No Sunshine”, as the four good mates jammed out the night. Their medley moved on to “Summertime”, Annabel closed her eyes and improvised into some nice high notes, and Daniel delivered a raunchy, blues solo as the audience whistled and urged him on. “What A Difference a Day Makes” had Annabel all warmed up and Teddy doing his characteristic warbling. Like: “See? This jazz stuff is so easy.”

They wrapped up the night with the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”

We wanted them back alright! We were a happy audience at Rumba! We wanted Quadro Forte back too, but the guitarist that sets their pulse had left for the night. “We sing as one band, and roll as one band” said Emmanuel. Hopefully they will do that for a long time.

An absolutely ace night, thanks to our local musicians, Le Meridien and Rumba, Bandwidth and Cado Creatives. We are a lucky lot in Kota Kinabalu.


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