7 September 2009

Postcard from KL

Greetings from CJ’s dauntless jazz journo. I’m out of Canberra for a while, and hoping to search out some jazz wherever I alight. First stop Kuala Lumpur. We’ve arrived during Ramadan and on the long weekend of Independence Day in memory of that day (31 Aug 1959) on which Malaya ceased being a British colony and became Malaysia. The people are proud of this, but it seems to be a pleasant and relaxed family weekend and perhaps time for some window or real shopping. Despite the wishes of nationalists, national holidays tend to be like this everywhere, and I approve. I had searched out the jazz on the Net, but given it’s Sunday, I expected little. The most promising club had shut the year before. In the end I found some music and busy Asian night street liveliness, along with some good humoured contacts during the day.

I caught the David Gomes Quintet with singer Junji Delfino featuring. They were playing a commercial gig in an up-market store. Not the opportunity to let go, but these were decent players and there was interest in their playing. Junji sang an impressive interpretation of How high the moon, that made me think Ella in her sense of anticipating and syncopating the melody and falling to 7th and other colourful notes. Nice one, and a good, strong voice. Both the saxes were satisfying. David harked from the US and playing a very decent and sometimes sinuous tenor; Eddie appeared more local but was similarly authentic on his solos. Leader David on piano was involved in the interesting jazz room that had closed a year before, but was obviously still plying the trade. I noticed a minimal style in accompaniment, and capable solos with just a touch of dissonant sequences. As you’d expect, this was not an out gig. Steve on drums was steady, and Vincent on bass played a few solos. I felt the latins were comfortable but perhaps less so the funk. I just caught one set with a steadily swinging Take the A Train, a funky version of Nature boy, a comfy latin on I’ll remember April, and David singing the Beatles’ Can’t buy me love. They finished with a tune that was introduced as a well known Malaysian song, but it sounded very much in the American songbook tradition to me, with cycles of fourths and I guessed a 32 bar chorus.

Later in the night I came across some other jazz-ish playing. Well, these were standards, but they were played in a wedding cum dinner background style. The local concierge described the style as “Ghazal”. I explained that we had it in Australia, too, although I haven’t come across it for some time. This is soft latin rhythms, endlessly repeating, virtually mesmeric choruses, some gentle and undemanding solos, and sax toying over melodies played on keyboard. In this case, with tambourine replacing drums, and I think some keyboard sequencing for the bass line. Eminently backgroundable. But I found it interesting with the national twist, the sweet and mesmeric sounds and the upright, dignified presentation. And tons better than piped elevator monotones. The band was Music Irama Malaysia but I missed the performers’ individual names.

I didn’t get the feeling that KL is particularly jazz-oriented, but it’s a big city with a mess of tall buildings and busy roads, a real monorail, touches of British colonial history and a good natured population. Jazz is an international art, and I trust I can find more over coming weeks to expand slightly on CJ’s Canberra centricity.

David Gomes (piano) led a band with Junji Delfino (female vocals), David Muehsan (tenor), Eddie Kismilardy (alto), Vincent Ong (bass) and Steve Nanda (drums). Later, I caught the Music Irama Malaysia playing Malaysian “Ghamal” music.

1 comment:

Jazzmamma said...

Hi there, Eric!

Thanks for chancing upon us at Pavilion yesterday. It was lovely to meet you!

I shall lead the guys to this site to catch a glimpse of your shots. :)