Friday, September 07, 2007

Let me write about music

Someone once told me that I write best about music. Let me do that.

I don't know why I haven't written about music lately. Maybe I'm not in the mood. In fact, I haven't really *listened* to any music closely lately, be it CD or live performances. I've been playing, but I haven't been actively listening. My life has been pre-occupied with some other stuff, such as work! Work?! Pretty amazing, innit?

Last night, I finally got to listen to an impressive concert by the Roy Hargrove Quintet at City Hall. It was a semi-fantastic show. I saw Roy four years ago touring with Herbie Hancock and the late Michael Brecker. Roy was fantastic back then. Standing alongside the two giants, Roy did not show any stage fright. Instead, he played his ass off in the rather limited number of solos that he had. He gave his best and stole the show but also gave credence to the two stars.

Now he was in HK and he led his own rather unknown band. He did his thing again. This time, he gave us a variety of stuff he'd like to do. The encore was a Lee Morgan-esque soul jazz number, evidently paying tribute to the underrated master, showing the audience that he was more in tune with Morgan than with the more revered Miles Davis, and for good reasons. The band swung as it needed to be, and it was solid overall.

This makes me digress to the state of jazz in HK. I'm no expert or connoisseur to comment on the jazz scene here as I'm relatively new to it, but I made some observations.

There are a number of very talented musicians dominating the jazz scene in HK, and they should be applauded for their effort. The scene in HK is a close-knit one, kind of like a family, where musicians help each other out. They even go to junk trips together from time to time.

Musically, there are two major things lacking in HK: swing and ballads. That is not to say, the HK jazzicians can't do them; they just don't or won't. Some may even think those genres are below them. This cannot be further from the truth.

I remember talking to Jason Cheng and Tom Nunan at Grappa's one afternoon and we came up with the conclusion that jazz isn't jazz if ain't got that swing. I completely agree. In fact, I've been to concerts where they bored me to death with what I call the "high intellect" or "jazz goes to college" stuff. The swing thing was lackluster.

Not to elevate myself, some of the blues concerts I did with Paul Candelaria and Joel Haggard swung much harder than most of the jazz shows I've seen in HK combined. The swingingest band was surprisingly at my friend Ernest's wedding featuring Yoyung, Justin Siu and Hassan. They swung their ass off that night and we got some of the best music one could possibly get at weddings or otherwise. Jennifer's band at Cafe Deco swings pretty hard too except the volume is so soft because they want their clientele to eat and talk.

Also, I have not heard a decent "ballad" by any jazz musician in HK. They either do bebop licks or sing "Spain" out of tune again and again or join the yell-fest at some jam session trying to out-scream each other or see who can imitate Whitney Houston the best. What we fail to realize is that sometimes it's a just a good feeling when we sit down, compose ourselves, and sing or play the ballad like it is.

I remember going to a Joe Lovano concert at Regatta Bar in Boston. As Joe played "Someone To Watch Over Me" melodically, I thought to myself, "That's a ballad." HK jazz musicians should think hard about that.

Other than that, the HK jazz scene is really not bad, compared to the rest of Asia. At least we have some world-class guitarists and pianists in town. However, we need more upright bass players and drummers though. And we need more upright bassists for blues gigs, too. Like I said before, the blues is supposed to be with an upright bass (See Willie Dixon).

Labels: , ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by