Thursday, June 4, 2015
Jazz Artists




I was in Kathmandu earlier this month to speak at a conference on creativity and entrepreneurship (see my coverage here: During the trip, I was delighted to meet up with Sachida Rauniyar, founder of Nepal’s music label SAC Music ( His roster of artistes includes Kutumba, Trikaal, Upendra Lal Singh and Ani Choying Drolma.

Now in his 40s, Upendra Lal Singh is a pioneer in bringing jazz piano sound to Nepali music. “Music is the mother tongue of humanity,” says Upendra on the liner notes of his debut album. He is also a regular feature at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, where he showcases Nepali tunes in jazz and rock style. Upendra has played with a range of musicians in Nepal, including Nikhil Tuladhar (drums), Babu Raja Maharjan (tabla) and Raman Maharjan (flute).


I picked up three of his albums for review: Murchchhanaa, A Musical Pilgrimage, and Nostalgia, and also met up with Upendra for an afternoon interview.

1. Murchchhanaa
(YouTube live track:

Murchchhanaa means spiritual transition or musical movement, and represents new directions in the evolution of Nepali music. Joining Upendra Lal Singh are outstanding musicians Roshan Kansakar (bass), Rabin Das Shrestha (vocals) and Nabin Shrestha (tabla). Roshan has also played with rock band ‘Mukti and Revival.’

Rabin has a master’s degree in Hindustani classical vocals from Benaras Hindu University in India, and also lectures in Nepal. Nabin started learning tabla at the age of nine under Shri Rabin Lal Shrestha. He received a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relationships for higher studies in Delhi, and now also teaches at Ratna Rajya campus in Nepal.

The album begins with the track Instant Karma in magnificent regal style. Set in raga Jog, it includes an additional overlay of drums. Vocals and instruments blend together seamlessly and set the tone for the album. Rabin’s soaring vocals also stand out in the track No Name.

The rest of the album is largely instrumental. The track Friends is based on raga Hamsa Dhoni and features fine tabla. The folk song Resham Firiri is given a funky rock spin, and the album ends with the beautiful ballad Park.

2. A Musical Pilgrimage
(YouTube samples:

This album begins in fine style with the track Himalaya, with soaring notes evoking the spirits of the mighty Himalaya mountains. The sherpa instrument peyong is played by Tshering Gyurmey. Jazz bass adds a new flavour to the Newari folk song Jhan Jaka Maya Kayana
(Your Love Grows On Me), and heavy percussion takes the track Shiva Dance to the crescendo. Based in raga Yaman, it evokes Lord Shiva’s cataclysmic dance tandava.

Wind of Naeba is an instrumental piece inspired by the Japanese hill station Naeba, and the track Jasmine includes Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese melodies. The folk song Resam Firiri features Hari Saran Nepali on sarangi. The Nepali folk melody Saal Ko Paat also gets a jazzy rendition, this time in Latin style, and the album ends in a climax with Rhythm of Nepal, featuring cymbals and local dhime drum.


Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell, born as William Frisell in Baltimore, Maryland on March 18, 1951, is well-known as one of the world most famous Jazz guitarists. He is in the same line as Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell, John Scofield, John McLaughlin or Al DiMeola. Two of his albums, “The Continentals” (2003) and “History, Mystery” (2009) were Grammy Award Nominees. His 2005 album, “Unspeakable”, won Grammy Award of Best Contemporary Jazz Album category.

Frisell learned playing clarinet from Jack Steven at the age of 9. He got his first guitar, a Christmas gift, at the age of 12. He bought Beach Boys, Little Deuce Coupe/Surfer Girl recordings a year later. He played with his first school band as a saxophone player. In 1965, he watched live concert, Herman Hermits, for the first time. He watched so many live shows since then namely Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, James Brown and Buffalo Springfield.

Young Frisell also listened to Chicago Blues such as Otis Rush, B.B King and Buddy Guy. He ever studied music at University of Northern Colorado before administering himself to Berklee  College of Music in Boston. He ever learned music from Jim Hall and Jon Damian there.

Frisell  lived in New York in 1979. He played in quartet there together with Kermit Driscoll (Bass), Joey Baron (Drum) and Hank Roberts (Cello) and became trio at the end due to the quitting of Hank Roberts.

frisell-credit-michael-wilson (2)

The biggest leap of his career came  in 1981. Pat Metheny could not join to make a recording at that time and Frisell was recommended to take Metheny’s place to Paul Motian in making “Psalm” (1982) for the famous ECM Records. Frisell became “in-house guitar player” since then and played in several albums produced by ECM. He made his own album entitled “In Line” produced by ECM a year later.


theresa zen, iwan zen, lita zen, karen idol, savoy homann, ismail marzuki, sabda alam, asian african conference

Too often, national heroes don’t get the respect, recognition and honor they deserve. In the music world the case is just the same. Peole tend to forgot the contribution of many artists who had done so much for the life of music we live in today. It’s ironic, since they still sing the song but they don’t want to pay attention to the composer, or the singers/musicians who have brought it for the first time, those who made the song remain timeless. As Indonesia celebrated Kartini Day several days ago, a day to honor a national female heroine “Raden Adjeng Kartini” (April 21, 1879 – September 17, 1904) who fought for women’s equal rights especially in education,  we think it’s the time to bring up a female singer that time forgot. She’s Theresa Zen.

It may be only a few that still remember Theresa Zen. She was a fabulous singer that’s gifted with sweet heavenly voice. She was a brilliant natural born singer back then with many achievements. She even got attention from Doris Day, who loved her voice so much and sent her vinyl LP all the way from US to Indonesia along with her autograph specially for Theresa.

IMG_2904_resizeIn her 75 years of age, she still has a crystal clear memory from the past. We visited her along with the music director of Melinda Hospital’s Grand Jazz  events, the pianist/vocalist/accordionist Imelda Rosalin. She gave us a warm welcome together with her son, the jazz singer with a golden voice Iwan Zen. She’s weak now but still well. “I’d still sing if I could, but I can’t do it anymore.” she said. That’s too bad, because she had such a beautiful voice in her heyday. Now we can only hear her singing voice from her vinyl collections that would be very hard to find today. Thank God there’s a vinyl of her in good condition, well preserved by Yongki Nusantara, a jazz elder who also owns Mara Radio in Bandung. From his collection we could still hear the prime voice of Theresa when she was active almost half century ago.

About Theresa Zen

IMG_2876_resizeShe was born as Theresa Amanupunnjo in Larantuka, Flores in January 6, 1935. Her father Eferandus Amanupunnjo was a Sergeant Major of KNIL (the Nederland-Indische soldier). During the Japanese invasion her father got caught and was jailed in Bandung. Theresa and her mother, Dortje Soselisa moved to Bandung as well. She was lucky enough to get well education. From Europe Legere School (ELS) she continued to Melania Junior High School and then worked as in the administration office of a Dutch workshop on Jl. Gudang Utara. It was before she realized her calling to be a singer.

We might wonder where Theresa Zen got her voice from. “It was from my mother..” she said. Through the mother, Theresa and her sisters inherited the singing voice. But it was shaped from the church. Being a church singer together with her sisters slowly her voice was built in form. Her smooth alto vocal style was soon discovered by many. From there she just knew that she was meant to be a singer.

The Beginning of Her Singing Career

She worked as a singer at the historical Savoy Homann hotel in the early 50’s with the band named Rino Gasparini and His Combo, led by an Italian pianist Rino Gasparini. There were two Indonesian joined the band while the other one came from Hungary. She sang variety of songs in different genres in there to entertain the guests, including pop, hawaiian and also jazz.


Florian Ross, serambi jazz, germany jazz, goethe

How’s jazz in Europe? That’s one of the question once asked by my friend. As we in Asia are quite familiar with the jazz musicians from US or around Asia, I’d be happy to say that jazz is alive and still grow dynamically in Europe as well, just like in any other part of the world. Germany is one of the big nation in Europe where jazz has been living for a very long time. Germany is always making a big contribution in the growth of jazz in Europe. But then again, we don’t hear them so often in Asia.

florian ross, serambi jazz, goethe, germany jazzLet’s take a look at one of the pulse of jazz from German. Florian Ross is a pianist/composer/arranger from Cologne, Germany. He studied piano and composition in Cologne, London and New York, with Joachim Ullrich, John Taylor, Django Bates, Bill Dobbins, Don Friedman and also Jim McNeely. No less than 7 albums have been released from his first one in 1998, until the most recent one, Eight Ball & White Horse in 2007. He has also achieved many international awards all along his career.

Florian Ross distinguished himself as a jazzer that successfully stands in between two musical aspects: improvisation and composition. He’s also a musician who thinks, hears, writes and plays musically. There is no border in Florian Ross’ music. Seems like he never care about making sides with anything, he can never be placed inside a single category or any paticular jazz genre, he just go ahead making his own music, the fresh breath of freedom that actually is an important essence of jazz. Sometimes it can sound so rebelious, sometimes it can sound mellow and sweet, sometimes it can be very experimental, it’s like he’s having all kinds of music for every season. The multi colored world of Florian describes his passion in a form of jazz that should not only be listened, but should also be felt. The big passion, the great skill, the ability to musically draw his mind are some of the power that describe who Florian Ross is as a stand out  jazz artist.

And here it is. How lucky we are in Indonesia to have Florian Ross’ contribution in jazz education. Not only he will perform at the upcoming SERAMBI JAZZ Concert, he will also host a 5 day workshop at SERAMBI JAZZ Workshop. (Details coming soon). This is one of the SERAMBI JAZZ events calendar made by Goethe Institut Jakarta, a very interesting and important program that should not be missed by all the Indonesian jazz lovers. Florian Ross’ performance and knowledge-sharing is surely will be beneficial for the growth of jazz in Indonesia, and also very important as an extending collaboration and friendship between Indonesia and Germany. Stay tune for more SERAMBI JAZZ updated news only at

Florian Ross 8Ball: Eight Ball & White Horse CD (Intuition 2007)
Florian Ross Trio: Big Fish Small Pond CD (Intuition 2006)
Florian Ross Quintet: Home and some other Place CD (Intuition 2005)
Florian Ross Trio: Blinds And Shades CD (Intuition Music 2004)
Florian Ross Brass Project: Liliacs and Laughter (Naxos 2000)
Suite for Soprano Sax und String Orchestra (Naxos 1999)
Seasons & Places Debüt-Album (Naxos 1998)

Visit Florian Ross’ official website at: and myspace at:

Pictures taken from Florian Ross’ official website


yellowjackets, biography, jakjazz 2008
yellowjackets, biography, jakjazz 2008

Yellowjackets is one of the most important contemporary jazz quartet of the 80s and 90s. They are known for producing their own style which blend fusion with smooth jazz, groovy funk even some RnB and rock. It’s just interesting to hear them play, crossing all the borders and delivering delicious compositions for almost three decades now.

It all started when Jimmy Haslip (bass) joined guitarist Robben Ford‘s band in 1977. The band included Russell Ferrante (keyboard, synthesizer) and Ricky Lawson (drummer). Together they released an album, but unfortunately the record label wanted them to make more pop-oriented songs. The band evolved, they recorded demo tapes and sent it to Warner Bros. That move earned them a contract, and Yellowjackets were born. Robben Ford, the founder, guested on the first two album of Yellowjackets.



michael franks, jazz, biography, world tour 2008Talking about Michael Franks is talking about someone who has contributed something very special in the jazz world. Simply an unquestionable talent. Inspirational lyrics, rhytmic balance, beautiful arrangement, and of course, who could resist his sweet and soft comforting voice. His way of singing is uniquely different. He always interpret songs in a very simple way and focusing on the beauty inside every songs. He just sing it simple without vibration, and that’s his trademark that loved by many over the years. Simply put, Michael Franks is one of the best talent in the jazz world.

Michael Franks was born on September 18th, 1944 in La Jolla, California. He bought his first guitar when he was 14 with six private lessons included, and that became the only music education he had. Michael began his music lane by singing folk rock with guitar. Then later on he started focusing on jazz. It was a perfect choice, because with jazz he could explore his ability widely, and soon after that people realized they got something new in jazz with him. Michael Franks’ first appearance in music industry was in 1973 with his first selftitle album. Until now, he has made 21 albums, and the good news is, it won’t stop there because he’s still active.


aziza mustafa zadeh, mugam jazz, jazz pianist, middle east jazz

Meet the Princess of Jazz from the western side of Caspian Sea. Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, also known as Jazziza, is a lady with a special gift. She’s a fantastic pianist, amazing composer and also has superb voice. She play her music in an unique style, deeply influenced by the Azerbaijan’s traditional style known as Mugam.

one way
one way

A OneWay sign is an instruction for a driver to only go in one direction. The band that makes up OneWay defines that instruction; for the listener.

This band guides you on a journey infused with elements of jazz, fusion, rock, soul and R&B.

One Way is made up of LaMar “Pharaoh” Merchant (Drums) Piete Miller (Keyboards/Piano), and Reza Saleh (Bass).

These three musicians bring distinctive, intense and versatile sounds that call

MySpace Site :

JazzLoVa says :

Jazzlovers .. say Hi to One Way Jazz , Jazz group who will give you the new direction of Jazz. And I just wanna tell you all that we have Indonesian Great Bassist in this group, Reza Saleh.

You guys can enjoy their music on

Let’s have a jazzy driving to One Way Jazz 😉

*kedip 😉


minnie riperton, loving you, biography

There was a singer with amazing range of vocal that started her career long before Mariah Carey was even born. Minnie Riperton had the ability to execute trills, runs and other vocal acrobatics in whistle register. Minnie Riperton was capable to sing easily in an unbelievable five and a half-octave vocal range,but reportedly could access the seventh octave and played with it. Her Piccolo Coloratura Soprano voice type was just unbelievable. The only soul singer to rival her range is Mariah Carey, although singers like Rachelle Ferrell, Shanice Wilson, Chanté Moore, or Christina Aguilera have demonstrated Some of the techniques that made Minnie so popular.

She was known to score her greatest commercial success with the memorable hits: Lovin’ You. Minnie was born in Chicago, 8th November 1947. As a young girl she studied music, drama and dance at Lincoln Center, and later contemplated a career in opera. But the history noted that she entered her pop career in 1961, by joining Gems and signed to Chess label. While being a personnel of Gems, she also did some backing vocals to other Chess’ artists like Ramsey Lewis, Fontella Bass, the Dells, and Etta James.


atiliaMeet Atilia, a rising star from Malaysia, that stunned many people at Java Jazz 2008 with her great performance. Atilia is set to be the next crooners in Malaysia. She has crisp husky voice that sounds very beautiful. Her mom, Salamiah Hassan is not a stranger for Malaysians, one of the most renowned jazz and evergreen singers in the country.

Does the fact give her some advantages or setbacks? “No one wants to be the shadows of another.But with my mum, I take it as a blessing and priviledge. After all, without her, where would I be now?” she said. “She was my drive, my catalyst, my support and the shoulder that I cry on when I need to bawl out. In all, no one can have a better best friend than what I have with my mum.”

Born in the southern state of Johor, and grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Atilia feels complete support from her family. That boost up her confidence in creating some of the finest melodies in Malaysia. The evident is revealed in her debut album, “Sangkar” that has launched in March 2007 and marketed domestically in June 2007 in Malaysia.