I came to Sutera Harbour tennis courts after finishing my usual gig at Bella Italia. It was Thursday night, the night before the first day of KK Jazz Festival 2011. Approaching the venue, the stage glowed colours of the Sabah forest – woody browns and greens, illuminated like a beacon in the surrounding darkness. Agung Beat [featuring Dayang Noraini] was sound checking. Beautiful!
Walking in, I saw Juzzie Smith had finished his sound check. “That’s okay!” He said. “A better surprise for you tomorrow!” I hear he is really something, this amazing one man band. He said he’d managed to walk along the waterfront after checking into his hotel, and he would definitely be back with his family. That’s our Sabah for you.
I greeted Haji Ibrahim, head of Mega Boogie Sdn Bhd, and veteran crooner Johnny Toft, then approached the stage.
The lovely and petite Dayang Noraini told me that Agung Beat is a 18-strong band! They’re the last act on the Friday night. They are mostly students from UMS plus a few former students. One notable former student is Gavin Lawrence, who this year is playing with Agung Beat, Momain Blues and Little SIA… is he in demand or what?
Dayang said this year’s performance will be totally different from last year. In 2010 the UMS Big Band delivered up a big show of standards, with Dayang Noraini being the quintessential jazz diva. “This year we have the gamelan instruments with a little bit of swing, a little bit of rock jazz. Sayang Kinabalu – one of the lagu ratyat, will be played, rearranged by Frankie, with other rearranged songs from Java.”
The first two songs they will perform are original compositions by Lee Haji Wahid (Rafiqa Roslee), the next three songs after that are new arrangements.
Later, as I walked around, I heard them I heard them play a happy calypso piece, which I think was a rearrangement of Sonny Rollin’s composition ‘St. Thomas’, the gamelan instruments seemed to invert the chorus! It was clever and really suited these ethnic instruments!
Around the side of the stage, I saw Chris Pereira, in sound engineer mode. He had headphones on, concentrating hard, hovering over the console [Mega Boogie’s Yamaha LS9-32 digital console] muttering about not having done this for a long time, yelling at a walkie talkie on the table, peering at the stage through the dry ice…. so I snuck away and left him to it 😀
Back at the other sound control area, Mega Boogie’s Head of Operations Lazman said it had been windy earlier but everything was okay by the evening. I said he looked like he hadn’t slept for days. He laughed and said that’s just how it is during a show, “Afterwards we can all rest!”
Sound engineer Stephen Lim was working the main console. It’s his second time working with Roger Wang and Mega Boogie, he said. The first time was during Roger Wang & Friends 2011, last month.
Festival Co-Chairman Roger Wang was pretty calm. “So far so good,” he said. “Technically there’s been nothing major, and Agung is the biggest group, if they go well, the rest should be fine.” SPArKS staff were busy making trips to the airport. Lenore Beverley Lee-Yong was meeting Lucky from Indonesia, coming in on a late flight. The Benjamin Lackner Trio flies in Friday, arriving before the press conference.
“You’ll meet Leslie Loh, he’s coming,” Roger said. Leslie heads up Malaysia-based audiophile record label PopPopMusic.
Spice of Tones were in that night, Peter Lau said they’d left Labuan at 7.30am to make the boat.
My trusty photographer friend Nasier Lee was looking relaxed, and said this is really pleasant Still Life work for him [One of his specialities is Extreme Sports photography!] He said the Mega Boogie crew has been great and he will bring his own walkie-talkie to tune into their frequency. This way he’ll know what’s going on during the festival.
So it’s all systems go, and I’ll see you at the KK Jazz Festival 2011 Press Conference this afternoon.
GOT YOUR FESTIVAL TICKETS YET? Wanna see who’s on tonight? Look below.
Day 1 – Friday, 17 June 2011
Agung Beat featuring Dayang Noraini
Day 2 – Saturday, 18 June 2011
SIA Little Jazz
Spice of Tones
The Benjamin Lackner Trio
Aseana Percussion Unit
Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival 2011 – Workshops.
Drum Circle by Asean Percussion Unit
Classical vs Jazz by Tay Cher Siang
Harmonica and One-Person Band by Juzzie Smith
FOR MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE FESTIVAL LINE UP AND WORKSHOPS, PLEASE VISIT THE KK JAZZ FESTIVAL WEBSITE