Monday, August 4, 2008

Jazz band ..."On the Waterfront: All That Jazz II"

Hey guys,
My latest post on the recent jazz performance by vocalist Messlisa and her jazz band from last month:

It was a cool and noisy day when the preview of National Day Rehearsal had just ended near Waterfront Promenade. Chattering sounds of the crowd lingered at “The Powerhouse” as they waited for the gig to begin. Jazz performers were gearing themselves and tuning their instruments.

All the seats in front of “Stage@The Powerhouse” were occupied with public of different age groups. People were laying their mats out on the grass field and some stood near “The Powerhouse”. Obviously the “kiasu” culture of Singaporeans in grabbing any freebies including free performances had spread its wings once again in this particular outdoor free performance.

The opening prologue was a foreword about the Esplanade Presents program “On the Waterfront: All That Jazz II” by a tiny lovely lady in her brown top and white skirt on the stage. With the opening of the first song “My Shining Hour”, the music jumped straight into the driving pulse of a fast heartbeat with the mellow sounds of the vocalist and the double bass.

The vocalist, Melissa’s scat singing technique had her improvising the sound of the trumpet in inaudible syllables, which left the general audience in puzzled expressions on their faces. Such scat singing must have sounded alien to them especially for those who absolutely had no exposure of listening to jazz vocal music. Her singing was filled with a decent vocal tone with good musicality sense as compared to the ones that I have heard among the few jazz local vocalists in Singapore. The guitar, keyboard and drums joined somewhere in the middle of the song and the song ended with the response of lackadaisical applause from the audience.

The mood of the music slowed down with a classic song when Melissa sang her own rendition of a classic bossa nova piece “Din Di” by world-renowned Brazilian music composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was calming and relaxing to the listeners with visual images of dreamy clouds up in the starry night.

One of the musical pieces among the songs highlighted was “What a little moonlight can do.” The double bass sounded like a train rushing in full speed towards its next destination. Yet the bassist remained firm and steady in time. Mei Shuem (the keyboardist) was throwing in various melodic music chords. Swift music notes were just running through her fingers with such rapid speed that it must have taken her years to master it. Simultaneously Andrew (the guitarist) was dashing musical notes up and down. The music began to heat up like fire leaving Tony (the bassist) in instances of musical similar lines as the other musicians tried to back him up with harmonic chords and rhythmic patterns. The fast beats of that musical piece finally came to an end when Melissa finished it off with a sustained singing note.

It was pretty interesting to note that Melissa was introducing the names of the keyboardist and guitarist in the songs frequently. Perhaps it was the fact that they were the significant supporting music characters for the songs. The bassist and drummer were sparingly mentioned which made me ponder the importance for the roles of different musicians in the band even if they are not seen as part of the main cast in the act.

At some point, some young audiences left. Maybe the music was getting a bit too odd and “old-style” to them. In the world of jazz music, perhaps such appreciation of creative elements in music making are not easily accepted by young Singaporeans as the general mainstream music remains as pop and rock music.

The song “Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” gave the aural impression of a mother coaxing her baby to sleep. It almost felt like one was going to enter into the story of Alice in Wonderland with the soothing voice of Melissa. The last song was a mid-tempo song “L.OV.E” with the whole band. The drum sounded like tapping shoes used in dancing music and Boon Gee (the drummer) had his chance to show off his drum skills in a few measures of beats. Finally soft claps of appreciation were given after the musicians completed their last piece for the set.

In general, the viewers don’t seem to show much enthusiasm towards the jazz live music show but it was quite heartwarming to see that most of the audiences still remain to support the performers. The atmosphere would have certainly shone if more jazz music lovers had attended the gig on the night itself.

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