It’s mid-year and that time again… the tennis courts at Sutera Harbour Resort are veiled in waterfalls of tiny lights, and this idyllic covered outdoor venue becomes the site of the Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival, now in its sixth year.
Roger Wang, Vice President of the Society of Performing Arts in Kota Kinabalu [SPArKS] – which brings us KKJF each year – said they’ve had a strong, positive response to awareness-raising activities in the run-up to the festival. The city even enjoyed its first ever KKJF Jazz Parade, a brass band doing a walkabout.
The irrepressible Johnny Rodgers Band from New York City started sending over their mad, happy effervescence before they even got here!
Here they are jamming at departure Gate 44 of Hong Kong International Airport in transit to KK. Makes you smile doesn’t it? I guess we couldn’t get enough of them from the last time they were here.
Once landed at KKIA, it was showtime from the word ‘Go’! They’re just the best. Here they are with SPArKS President Cheong Kok Ann, Roger Wang, and representatives from the U.S. Embassy.
Later that evening, I turned up at the Jesselton Hotel to play my regular gig, to find the Rio Sidik Quintet sitting by the piano, dining.
You are kiddng me. I have to play in front of all these pros?
“Oh yes,” said Bella restaurant manager Vinst. “All the jazz festival musicians are eating here.”
Too late to take the night off then.
I remember seeing this video on the KKJF Facebook page a few weeks ago. The Rio Sidik Quartet is doing a laid-back reggae version of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t”. The original song is a maddeningly fast Bebop, and I thought they had gotten away with doing it slow. But then it came to the bridge, which goes up and down in semitones, and they did it the classic way – fast. Don’t you think we can’t play fast, okay? Yessirs.
[As I wrote this, I went through balitrumpeter‘s youtube videos. Gorgeous]
Rio asked me, “Do you know ‘Round Midnight?” Another beautiful Monk composition. I was so happy to sing it for him.
Here’s SabahSongs and the Rio Sidik Quartet.
Later that night I went to Sutera Harbour to see how it was all going. Photographer Nasier Lee‘s been on site capturing Mega Boogie‘s heroic crew at work. I love watching those guys working and Nasier’s pics get it all.
Jazz is improvisation and it’s permeating everyone’s minds. Look what Nasier caught Mega Boogie Lighting Engineer Richard Heng doing…. maybe this is spontaneous riffs in the form of Lighting?
Sabah’s sound engineer export Stephen Lim was Front of House [FOH]. He said the centre stage concept – so well-received during last year’s festival – is tricky and cause for some sleepness nights as they work out the directions of all the speakers and mics, to eliminate feedback. Another hero. I left him to it.
On the stage audio side, Mega Boogie’s Kevin Chang said the stage sound and lighting company set up two sets of JBL Vertec 4889 line arrays, four per side. Similarly, on each side of the stage were JBL VT4880A subwoofer line arrays, two per side.
“For the House, we have JBL SRX700 speakers,” he said, so audiences of the outer edges of the venue can hear everything.
All systems go for KKJF today. The Johnny Rodgers Band holds the first of two workshops this morning. Check out the schedule and venues on the KKJF Facebook page.
The festival press conference is later this afternoon, before all the fun starts tonight! Got your tickets?
More details of the festival on their website.