Disco band Hot Chocolate sang in the 1970’s, “Everyone’s a winner baby, that’s the truth.” So it was with the second and final day of the KK Jazz Festival 2010. The whole event was a glorious triumph for the festival promoters, SPArKS and the RCKK, and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to be there to enjoy it all.
I was on my way to the Sutera Harbour, and I was running late! Oh no, I didn’t want to miss the UMS Big Band, it would be the first time I have heard a big band since being in Sabah. I was really excited! Anyway, we got there, and phew – they hadn’t started yet.
According to music supporter Hui-Hui’s Facebook, the UMS Big Band line up was:
- Alto saxophones (Khairul Azree, Jacek Rubczak, Ampuan)
- Tenor saxophone (David Matthew)
- Baritone saxophone (Andrew Poninting)
- Trumpets (Suria, Bandro Mun, Joel, Fisiong)
- Trombones (Roslee, Frankie, Erma)
- Guitars (Meshmoro Edward, Jali)
- Bass (Shari)
- Drums (Kevin Coma)
- Piano/Keyboard (Loretta Loretz, Stanley Soojin)
The festival emcees Lisa and Iskandar had entertained the audience and given them a run down of the night’s events, and then the lights were up!
There they were! The UMS BIG BAND — so much shiny brass under those lights. WAH! And they blew! It was lovely. I went right up to the front and crouched down with the other photographers, to take a video with my little Canon IXUS 900Ti, feeling inferior to everyone with DSLRs all around me. I waved desperately to Hui-Hui, but she was looking so serious and there’s no way I could catch her attention.
Andrew Poninting, senior figure in the music industry here and UMS band leader, wasn’t looking serious at all! In fact I could see he had the biggest smile across his face! And why not! Imagine all your students standing up there with you, blowing their hearts out in glorious harmony; all that big, big sound blasting out from under the canopies over Sutera Harbour tennis courts!
After the opening number, there was a big, upbeat arrangement of Sabah’s own “Jambatan Tamparuli”. Whoever the trumpeter was, standing all the way over to the right of the stage (audience’s right) he was grooving away, having a great time! It was nice to see!
The band was joined by singer Rene Barrow, who began with, “Just The Way You Look Tonight.” He walked around with one hand in his pocket, his resonant, warm voice putting us at ease. I thought his stage manner was particularly nice when he had the presence of mind to literally “point out” the guitar soloist (who was hidden behind the horns). Next he sang an arrangement of “Sunny”, telling us to pretend it’s not raining outside.
Special performing artist, Dayang Noraini joined the band next. She sang a lovely collection of songs, beginning with, “How High The Moon”. Dayang sang with the confidence and style of one who has performed overseas for many years.
To celebrate being in Sabah, she slipped in a verse of “Sayang Kinabalu” into her melody as well.
She then sang a beautiful ballad, “Diulang Tahun Mu”, taken from her debut album. She said the song was written by UMS trombonist Rafiqa Roslee, lyrics by Roslee and Dayang. At the side of the stage Mr. Poninting and two other UMS musicians made up a trio of supporting voices! Fabulous!
Dayang wrapped up her set with Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”, with a UMS solo trombone opening and a rare performance of the actual verse (so often with jazz songs, you never hear the opening verse). Dayang sashayed across the stage with aplomb, showing us who’s in charge, and why she remains a force in the music industry.
Rene then came back, almost apologetically 🙂 explaining that he hadn’t planned to play again, but KKJF Organising Chairman Jack Ong asked him so many times to sing a particular song, that he gave in. It was a song on Rene’s new album, “That’s Life”.
Rene explained how he was living in West Africa when he wrote this song.
“When you are surrounded by poverty, surrounded by slums and children who are forced to beg, and they’re owned, they have masters, they’re basically modern day slaves. You know, you always have to say that, behind all the sadness and all the pain, it’s a good world that we live in. It’s a really lovely world. And this is what my song is about.”
The song was, “The City Next To The Sea”, and it was a moving song by this thoughtful, young singer-songwriter.
Singapore and Thailand’s Organamix were on next, led by jazz pianist Jeremy Monteiro. Check out that Hammond B-3 sound! So refreshing to hear that. Mr Monteiro launched into “Just Friends” with all those lovely organ riffs reminiscent of Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith.
It was a technically superb offering, with all the musicians letting loose some wonderful solos on Sonny Rollin’s “Oleo”. Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis’ “This Guy’s In Love With You”, among many others. Jeremy also sang a song which he said his dad used to sing to him when he lived in Tanjung Aru, KK. Andrew Lim was on guitar, and Hong Chanutr Techatana-nan on drums.
Next on the bill was Mood Indigo, a jazz quartet from Bristol, UK. Singer William Grealish wore a lovely cream suit, as if he had just stepped out of The Cole Porter Song Book. The band launched into, “That Old Devil Moon Called Love”. It was a wonderful set – a collection from that great era when songwriters wrote for the musicals – George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart [they’re my favourite], Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer. So many wonderful writers.
Mood Indigo played “I’ve Got Rhythm”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “I’ll Take Manhattan,” Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” and then honouring Billie Holliday, they did, “God Bless The Child That’s Got Its Own.”
Then Roger Wang came on stage and they jammed up a thumping version of “On Broadway,” followed by “Nature Boy”. Oh, it was wonderful stuff! Roger eased into “Misty”. After his exit, the guys hit, “The Lady Is A Tramp”. THEN these grey-haired English guys did Beyonce’s “Put A Ring On It”. I was gobsmacked!
Last night’s senior performer, Island Jazz Connection’s Ray Rozells, jumped higher and belted out songs with more power than anyone, and tonight we had our rapping English elder stateman. It was fabulous! They finished up with, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” and we all went, “Do Wap, Do Wap, Do Wap, Do Wap, Do Wap, Do Wap, Do Wap, DO WAP!!!! YAH!
The adage goes: All good things come to those who wait. Well, now we were to reap our reward. Royalty came on stage, gilded in GOLD.
The Gina Panizales Jazz Quartet was to die for. They set up a edgy jazz-rock fanfare for the night’s jazz queen, and Gina Panizales came on stage, looking so hot and with an absolutely powerhouse voice. The band broke into a funk groove and she belted out the opening song which showed why this queen has reigned as a major player in this region for so long.
They played Rio. At the press conference a few days earlier, Gina said Roger Wang wrote that particular arrangement, and Sutera Harbour was suddenly a Brazilian party, Gina’s soaring voice reminded me of Tania Maria, and everyone was ready to dance.
The Quartet was awesome: lovely running solos from the lead guitarist and pianist, and her bass player is more than a musician: he’s her artistic director. Clearly, you could see him looking and communicating with all the musicians, as well as playing his instrument passionately to the audience, smiling and looking at us and really making us feel part of Gina’s party.
The GPJQ was Ee Jeng Hin, on piano, Faz Aznam on lead guitar, Sudin Nidus on drums, and Daniel Foong is musical director and bass player.
There was an exquisite piano solo on a Peter Gabriel track, and Gina and the band proved they can handle the most complex of songs, both in melodic and rhythmic terms.
Gina and GPJQ put on a magnificent show, a fine finale to this absolutely wonderful festival.
As I was leaving, I saw Mood Indigo and musicians from the Island Jazz Connection making their way back onto the stage. It was going to be a party, and certainly, the organisers of the KK Jazz Festival 2010 had plenty to party about. What a fabulous weekend; for them, for us, for musicians far and wide, and especially for musicians not far away at all! Very, very near, in fact! Well done all! Hip hip HOORAY!
A big thank you to Allen Ambrose and Leo Liew for the use of their photos in this write-up.