Everyone with Sabahan blood running through their veins will have stood the tallest, and with the proudest hearts, to witness their glorious young talent on stage for the whole world to see, on DAY 1 of the KK Jazz Festival 2010 at Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club, on June 18.
The whole evening was a complete success. The huge effort by organisers SPArKS and the Rotary Club of KK meant that we all sat or walked around a truly magnificent venue, soaking up the splendour of a visual and audio feast, thanks to superb sound and lighting, and witnessed a full line-up of completely professional and entertaining musicians.
Only the weather worked against festival organisers that day, and it’s a reflection of the event that crowds braved the torrential rain to make it to the huge, arched canopies over Sutera tennis courts.
Elson Kho [Head of Publicity and Marketing, KKJF] said later, “Yes, the rain was pouring, and flash floods were everywhere, but this did not dampen the spirit of the enthusiastic jazz festival goers in KK last night! Over 800 people turned up on the first day of KKJF.”
All the musicians delivered totally polished performances, but for me, the bands FINGERSTYLE, KIDZ and the KOMBO RTM SABAH stand out beyond all; because playing your very, very best with all your heart to your home people delivers a magic which surpasses all. Those musicians were all flying beyond the stars that night.
The emcees for the night, representing SPArKS and the Rotary Club of KK, were Mohd Iskandar Shah and Lisa Sabrina Ambrose. They’re a smashing duo and really growing into this role, taking us through the night with a great mixture of flair, together with warmth and local knowledge too.
Fingerstyle opened up the night with a medley of Steve Wonder and Earth, Wind and Fire songs, among others. Their faces lit the night as they sung with passion and the instrumentalists played with exquisite dexterity. If Happiness can be captured, it was in the face of the lead guitarist Syuwari Ritchie. They had a blast and blasted us too.
Following on was the Kidz from Kudat. Led by Matlan Kidz, they prove that God’s gifts — the ones which bring real beauty into the world — are sprinkled into every corner of the earth, and KUDAT, which is the very tip of Borneo, receives its fair share too. These kids play like music is captured inside them and just looking for a route to come bursting out. They played a set of instrumentals; lead guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. They played modern fusion, the music singing out from them effortlessly, right from their hearts.
Sonny Bahari took the microphone to talk to us about KOMBO RTM Sabah, the nine member kombo under the leadership of Moses De Silva. They began with instrumentals, a big funk sound to open, and the sound was so good and clear. I really loved hearing them together, so many musicians and playing so tight! (It also made me look forward even more to the UMS Big Band which is happening on the 19th!) They followed that with a song which had strains of Scottish or Irish folk phrases, and the saxman played a soprano, which gave the main melody a free feeling – made me think of jagged cliffs battered by big cold waves from a rolling sea.
Then Kombo cellist Annabel Tiu stood up and took the mic. She is a classic singer in the jazz idiom. She introduced the whole band, then turned to the audience with hand on hip and said: “When you fly, you gotta Straighten Up and Fly Right!” Then turning as cool as a cuke to the band, she growled, “Hit it, boys.” Man, we were back in the days of stilletto heels, panama hats, smoky jazz clubs and women with dark heavy eyelids and husky voices to tingle your spine. Annabel kept us tingling; she belted out Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”, backed up by full on solos all the way.
They looked so happy and fired up! I thought what a magnificent feeling they must all be sharing. Them up there on stage showing just what they got! And it’s A LOT! Knowing your mates and family are out there, cheering and so proud of you! It must have been a fantastic night for them.
After that, we were treated to some truly polished performances from the regional Malaysian pros. Island Jazz Connection are a four piece band, with the biggest show ever. They can ENTERTAIN! Wilson Quay on keyboards, Frankie Chai on bass and Jonathan James Scully on drums, all of them clearly outstanding in their field. They swept up the crowd with cover versions of big well known songs in the jazz style.
Their amazing singer – Ray Rozells – got the crowd grooving right away with a version of Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening.” They took us through a tapestry of songs including “Stormy Monday Blues”, “Try a Little Tenderness”, and some Ray Charles blues numbers finishing up with a moving version of “Georgia”, which the crowd cheered to from the word go as singer Ray really was quite like Ray Charles!
I know a lot of the young local musicians were excited about Atilia Haron being on the bill, as there’s a lot of respect here for her band, Phunk Mob. She did several songs from her second album, which has just been released. She put on a big show, and I know several of our seasoned musicians here will have attended the Phunk Mob workshop which was held today Saturday at Sabah Institute of Arts, to learn from these guys.
Last up was Amir Yussof and his band Roots, which added a folk, rock and blues feel to wind out the night. There was much cheering for Amir, who’s a popular personality here in KK, and they played to a happy crowd. It was certainly a night to remember.