Tag Archives: koh mr. saxman

DiverseCity 2015 – ASEAN Jazz Festival 2015

First off, please pardon my lack of updates on my website, especially in the blog section. However, I do update my Twitter and Facebook a lot more, so do please check my FB page when you can, for more recent updates.

Secondly, I’d like to talk about the festival I just performed at with my band, WVC – the ASEAN Jazz & Percussion Festival. It was one of the the festivals under the month-long DiverseCity Arts Festival 2015 (www.diversecity.my), held at one of Desa Sri Hartamas’ longest running F&B outlets, SOULed OUT. Of course, the music portion for this festival was curated by one of Malaysia’s most respected musician/pianist/composer/arranger, and the head-of-state for jazz in this country, Michael Veerapen. Naturally, as a jazz musician at heart, the ASEAN Jazz and Percussion Festival (as well as the No Black Tie and Alexis Sessions) would be his pet projects for this festival.

I remember having this conversation with Michael over teh-tarik about him wanting to put up a city-wide, month-long festival that would encompass the entire arts community in KL – dance, music, comedy, theatre, etc. Goes without saying, it would have been a MAJOR undertaking. And guess what? He did it! Despite facing a major setback in sponsorship cut, he managed to save a big part of the Festival – the Pub Festival, Alexis & No Black Tie Sessions, and of course the Jazz & Percussion Festival. I would’ve loved to see the KL Pops Symphony concert though.

Having worked with Michael for quite a while now, I am very well aware of his style of doing things. With no exception, this festival stays true to Michael’s quality of work, and I’m quite sure the other bands would testify to that too. He managed to put together a really great show together – from the artiste line-up to the technical part of the team (sound, lights, backline, etc). You want to know how easy it was for us for WVC? We went up for soundcheck, and it only took us 20 minutes to finish it! Everything was so smooth, the sound mix, EQs and monitoring were all done so well in such a short period of time.  As far as WVC was concerned, the sound mixing was good enough that we could almost make full use of our dynamic range that we have in our tunes, comfortably.

The festival itself, was a blast, for both the audience and the performers, from what I have observed. Overall, there were all the necessary elements a festival of this kind needed – food, drinks, a relaxing open air ambience, great sound, and awesome emcee in the form of Malaysian’s jazz mamma, Junji Delfino, (who also managed to sing a few tunes, standing in for Dasha Logan) and of course, a really good programming of performances. Practically every detail was taken care of, down to the screen projectors that were placed so systematically so that people at different parts of the restaurant could watch the show. The programming of the performers were also done with great thought, and each band put up one hell of a show (including us, of course!). It was a real JAZZ festival, at least in my books! Even though the acts that were invited to play all had their own strong musical identities, we all had one thing in common – JAZZ. Enough said. All the bands that played were amazing – The Steve Nanda Group (with Patrick Terbrack on sax, WeiLi Cheah on keys and Daniel Foong on bass), Singaporean group The Steve McQueens (with my buddy Fabian Lim on sax, Joshua Wan on keys, Eugenia Yip on vocals, Aaron James Lee on drums, and Jase Sng on bass), and of course Koh Mr. Saxman and the Sounds of Siam (Uhh, I won’t even bother trying to list out their band members Thai names). I had such a great time watching and listening all of them play. I’m also glad to call them my friends, as well, as I do know all of them personally.

I’ve mentioned it on FB and all that, but I’ll say it right here again: The ASEAN Jazz Festival was one of the best jazz festivals I’ve played in KL, or in Malaysia, in a very long time. I’ve played in many festivals before whether with WVC or other bands, but this tops the list of one of the best, if not the best.

Congratulations, Michael Veerapen and his team, for putting up such a wonderful and successful event, and also inviting WVC to be part of it! I personally hope this will be able to continue and grow in the following years to come.

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The Thailand International Jazz Conference 2015 – some thoughts

Talk about another inspiring and educational weekend! This was most certainly a great follow up to the Malaysian Jazz Piano Festival the previous week.

(You can read more about my thoughts on the MJFP 2015 here.)

First and foremost, a big shout out to the organizers of the Thailand International Jazz Conference (TIJC) 2015 for a job well done. It is my first TIJC conference (they’ve done it for the 4th year now, I believe), and it had been nothing short of an awesome and inspiring experience. It was nice to feel like a student again, to say the least. Going there to witness the musical greatness that was the George Garzone Trio, Lage Lund Trio, and the Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet, was something I will always look forward to. Not only that, seeing a whole bunch of Thai musicians (young and old) playing at a reasonably good-to-high-level, was also inspiring to me! The workshops were all conducted reasonably well, and all the artistes had enough good information for me to learn a few new things, and be inspired to work on some of them. More on that later.

The TIJC is an annual event organized by the Mahidol University Music College faculty. You can read more about it here. They bring in some very notable artistes in to conduct workshops and concert performances, and some of their previous artistes include Seamus Blake, Aaron Parks, Billy Hart, Ari Hoenig, Peter Bernstein and more. In addition, their local Thai established artistes and educators were also brought in to conduct these workshops and concert performances. This year, they brought in the George Garzone Trio (with Francisco Mela on drums, and Peter Slavov on bass), The Lage Lund Trio (with Matt Brewer on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums) and also the Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet (along with Troy Roberts on sax, Manuel Valera on piano, and Hogyu Hwang on double bass). Their local acts also include my good friends Koh Mr. Saxman, Passakorn Mirasilpin (or better known to us as “Mint”), Hong Chanutr Techatananan, and MANY (and I mean *MANY*) others.

The workshops were definitely one of the main highlights for me, and although half of it were in Thai (with their Thai educators, and that the primary demographic of the attendees were Thai, except us, the Malaysian contingent and then some), but they demonstrated well enough for us to get a good gist of what’s happening. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the workshops, and especially more so for Mr. Garzone’s saxophone workshop and also the Clarence Penn drum workshop. Some of them were better at explaining their concepts and thoughts and others, but all of them explained it clear enough (at least for me, being a native English speaker) for me to understand. The jazz competition was also an interesting one, where the students competing were all really skilled and were technically proficient in their instruments!

The live performances were of course, the main highlight of the whole event. And boy, they didn’t disappoint! The Thai bands were really amazing, and playing at a seriously high level. Although some of them weren’t really my cup of tea, but there is no denying their reasonably high skill level in their performance. The headliners (George Garzone Trio on Day 1, Lage Lund Trio on Day 2, and Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet on the last day) were, without doubt, just simply amazing. These are real Masters at work, and nothing beats the experience of seeing them live. And even though the festival ran from early in the day till almost midnight, it was extremely well attended. And it also helped that the venue was also beautiful and well-suited for the occasion (even the mosquitoes were having a field day!). If you have a chance to visit the Mahidol University campus, you will see how beautiful it is.

What was also beautiful about this event was how it brought together all the different music schools/universities/institutes to participate in this event. It was a joint collaboration with three of the top jazz music departments in Thailand – Mahidol University, Rangsit Conservatory, and also Silpakorn University. In addition, bands and ensembles from the various departments – student bands, army bands, etc – all were given a stage to perform! I really wonder when Malaysia will achieve this state of collaboration and communication in the music field. Hopefully I’ll get to see it within my lifetime? Other than meeting some old friends, I also got to make some new ones, and I’m plenty grateful for that.

I am seriously looking to next year’s conference, and I may try to make it an annual pilgrimage (unless I’m going there to perform, well, that’ll be a different story, then!). To all music students (and I’m not talking about only the ones STILL in school, if you get my drift) interested and SERIOUS about jazz, I think you should also make it a point to attend this conference. This is probably the closest thing you can get to, in terms of getting first hand information from the current masters of this music. Great job to Mahidol University College of Music and all its partners for a job well done!!

Special thanks to my traveling mates Toro Cheng and Chee Seng, and also Az Samad and Yin! It was a good hang, full with a-toro-ciously bad az jokes, and thoughtful conversations! Hope to do it again at some point.