“Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la.” This opening lyrics of “Deck the Halls”, a traditional Christmas carol dating back to the 16th century would probably perfect to describe the feeling of Christians all over the world in December. Why? Simply because it’s Christmas. There are many ways to celebrate the birth of Christ, but as usual we do it through jazz, by dedicating the December edition to Christmas. This is something we have been doing for years. In fact, our first ever created event was even for Christmas. We want to share the happiness, sending the message of peace, love and happiness to everyone who celebrate it by inviting bands that we believe would bring the celebration the best way possible.
We made the Braga Jazz Night #54 Special Christmas Edition in sync with our partner and the venue Braga CityWalk’s program throughout this month, “The Glory of December 2018”. For that, just like before we invited bands/musicians/singers to fill up three sessions. This year we’re connected with a youth ministry from a church and a New Yorker with huge talent in music eventhough he was building his career in many fields elsewhere. We believe this batch could give a lovely Christmas gift through music, and yes they did.
This 54th edition started with a band with unique name, CAFE GOSPEL. This is the band or project built by a guitarist Thomas Sylvester. Thomas is the founder of Annabeth, a band who just made its return in this event two months ago. At first we planned to invite Annabeth, but unfortunately some of the players couldn’t make it. The good thing is, instead of dropping our offer, Thomas created a band with his friends. It’s not an ordinary name for a project or band, but we think what he meant by Cafe Gospel is a project that have a lot of ways to spread gospel in fun and relaxing way, just like what you may find in a cafe.
In this band Thomas has three friends to play with. There is the certified gym’s personal trainer Catra ‘Catrasimo’ Simorangkir (drum), Ricki Sumampauw (bass) and Daniel Rhynaldy (vocal). Keyboardist Nicodemus Horisson who in fact was in the lineup with Reign happily joined the gang.
They kicked off loud by taking one of the most popular praise songs in churches today, a song that’s said has given the co-writer Israel Houghton a big impact in his life, “Friend of God”. Daniel sang loud and clear in front of the thunderous drum by Catra, funky rockin’ guitar of Thomas and Ricki’s funk lines. Nico made it sweeter with even richer melodies from the keys.
After a praise, they moved on to worship, pinning Sammy Simorangkir’s “Karena Kita”. It was like they were moving the praise and worship session in a sermon to this stage. It was like they were moving the praise and worship session in a sermon to this stage, and we think, isn’t it good to celebrate Christmas by praising and worshipping Him?
As if they didn’t want to dissapoint the audience who are not celebrating Christmas, they went out of the religious songs to fill the last two songs with hits from the secular world. The tight groovy intro must have sounded familiar to everyone watching, it’s Sandhy Sondoro’s popular song, “Malam Biru”. Thomas was busy in creating the funky chops, while the disco beat they made for the refrain was infectious.
For the last song they surprised us with making a groovy, pop jazz version of Cita Citata’s big hit “Sakitnya Tuh Disini”. They did an interesting arrangement. While giving a whole new outfit to the song, they kept it simple so anyone could sing along with Daniel, or at leat enjoying it at ease.
Eventhough the project is built to join this event, they played tight and cool, with joy being felt in every song. We are sure it’s because they have been playing together often, and also because these guys are all really good players. We are glad to invite them and hope this project will keep their existance, because doing the gospel through music certainly needs a good band, and this one is.
Next was the chance to see the second appearance of the New Yorker in this event. While he’s clearly talented in music, he actually built his career elsewhere. He was a journalist, a broadcaster, a businessman, and hey, he is a Jiu-Jitsu expert who trained the US Military. He was trained by the initiators of UFC and shaping himself seriously for years until he got the philosophy and the right technique of each arsenal moves of this martial art.
Normally, if you hear of a Jiu-Jitsu expert linked with UFC, you probably would imagine a tough looking fella with killer instinct, waiting to attack his prey. Or, you might think of a scary figure inside the octagon. But no, this man is far from all those impressions. He looks friendly, familiar, with warm smile almost always painted upon his face. Before we forget, he is none other than CHRIS ALEXANDER.
Now let’s back to his music side. This is what’s ‘oddly’ funny. Eventhough he had illustrious career on the other sides, he has been writing songs at least since the 80’s, resulting no less than 300 songs never been brought to the music stage. He had been attracted to music since his childhood years. Born in the rock n roll era, he started with drum after watching a drummer playing and thought it was cool. However, later on when he wanted to move on from the rock n roll, he felt that it was neccessary for him to play melodic instruments just to make sure that he would still able to play alone when he didn’t have anyone else with him.
Meeting him by chance, we quickly offered our stage right after we heard his story. He appeared on our stage, performing for the very first time as an artist right here in this event last month (Braga Jazz Night #53: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-event-report/braga-jazz-night-53-the-report/) under a project he called Indo Fusion Jamboree. That was his debut, a successful one. As it was in November, we invited him again to do Christmas, but this time we offered him to play solo. He joyfully accepted right away.
Christmas means love, that’s what Chris meant to say. For him, Christmas is the actualization of God’s love to us, and love keeps us together, despite of all the differences we all have. That’s the message he sent through the first song, a pop folk tune he wrote.
He dedicated the second song he wrote around 18 years ago to me as I am going to have my baby girl in just a couple of months from now. “You can’t really know what love really is until you have a baby”, he said. The song’s titled “You’re My Baby Girl”, an adorable song with sweet lyrics and melody that would make any daughter wept in happy tears if she hears her daddy sings it for them. I’m deeply touched by this wonderful gift. As he says, it’s the most wonderful gift one can have, and he just makes it more wonderful with the song. Thanks Chris! Love the song, love the way you sing it.
Next, he brought another original song of his, “Dance Into The Night”. This song has a catchy, groovy riffs that would make anyone listen dance into the night. Some audience got the rhythm and clapped their hands following the groove created by Chris.
For the last song, Chris took a classic song firstly recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. It’s interesting to see that he avoided the ballad style that most of artists do, he gave a mid-tempo joyride treatment, making us imagine of someone rushing home to spend the Christmas eve together with his family. Another interesting thing is his decision to change some words from the lyrics. Instead of “Please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents on the tree,” he changed this into “Please have snow, and always know, what Christmas really means.” What for? “I think it’s much more important to remind everyone of what Christmas really means instead of mentioning the mistletoe, tree and presents which are not even connected to the meaning of Christmas in first place.” he said. What a nice way to close his Christmas session. Not only he sang a very well known Christmas song but he also used it to send the message.
Chris can play with a team, but he is also a good one man band. He has sophisticated and calming singing voice, he can play instrument, he knows the importance of building the dynamics that makes every song he sings feels alive. With acoustic approach, he encounters Christmas warm and intimately, connecting to each of the audience in the simplest way yet heartfelt. “The songs I chose were meant to send the message of what Christmas really means… more than just a party, it’s a proof of God’s love to us.” he said. We believe that aside of his talents on so many fields, his soul is truly an artist, and music is written in his every breath. There are things that we are planning with Chris in the future, we hope by supporting him, he will achieve something that he’s never been able to reach before, a successful musician.
For the last show we welcomed a band representing a fruitful youth ministry of GBI Kalam Hidup called REIGN. The meaning of Reign is rule, that’s what the dictionary says. But for this youth ministry, it’s an abbreviation of “Redeemed Eternally In God’s Name”, which shows how they look at their life as.
Today Reign consists of more than 50 youngsters, led by youth pastors, young leaders and mentors that would know what the youngsters really need to have good faith that keeps on going stronger each day, something that they will really need as they are stepping into maturity. “We grow together in God as a family at Reign!” , they said, pointing that they wish to grow their faith in God together as one big, happy and blessed family.
For this Braga Jazz Night episode 54, Reign will be represented by the combination of leaders and youngsters. They are Stella Angela (vocals), Nicodemus Horisson (keys), Jerry Gates (guitar), Andreas Bastian (bass) and Ruben (drum). They have been serving in sermons, now this is the chance for them to extend their wings, coming out of the church’s wall and go blessing people in wider scale.
Reign filled their session with nothing but Christmas carols, starting with “Joy To The World”. This song was presented in funky style with merry ‘wah wah’ guitar sound. While the siblings Bastian (bass) and Ruben (drum) worked well in providing the rhythm, Nicodemus painted strong jazz with his keyboard. Stella’s loud and clear singing voice, and her cheerful gesture with lots of smile was captivating.
A very old Christmas carol from the 18th century (1700s), “O Come, All Ye Faithful” was the second song. Instead of making it a hymn like most people do, they redressed this song into jazz-rock fusion. Unique approach, but it worked.
They then slowed down with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” before sealing up their appearance with another cool modern version of the raditional classical English Christmas carol,”The First Noel”. As this is the last presentation, they built it in a medium tempo with happy beat. Happy is also the feeling we got from their apperance.
There are many youth ministries, but for us Reign is different. They happily took the chance to go outside the church’s wall to share the joy of Christmas. The team representing Reign transfered their happiness to the crowds which let us feel the blessing for real. We really hope Reign to keep equiping and fathering the youngsters so they will make big impacts when they are ready to penetrate the market place. May these ‘arrows’ fly into the right path in the hands of their mentors.
This time we got some musicians and singers visiting us. So we opened up the jam session. The first batch consisting of the amazing soul sister Agis Kania, senior jazz guitarist Hardi Suryana, young bassist Joe Bastian, while Catra and Nicodemus of Reign continued their service, positioned on drums and keyboard. They took “All Blues” to have fun. They all got the chance to do the solo run which created a cool scene. Since it was cool, the jam session manage to get the audience eventhough it was already late.
Due to the request, Catra left the drum and took the mike. His place was replaced by Ruben, while Jerry replaced Hardi on guitar. Catra sang “Because of You”, a hit of Keith Martin. Some of the audience were surprised that Catra actually has a really beautiful RnB voice.
The last batch featured our own Erick Gabe who gave one stunning finale with “Route 66”. Erick demonstrated his ability to do the sound of trumpet and trombone using his mouth, that attempt triggered the players to run wild along with him. That was the last drop of this edition as well as the whole 2018 program.
Three showcases in variety of styles made this Special Christmas Edition of Braga Jazz Night bright. We hope everyone who came and watch the event felt the joy of Christmas, may this presentation encourage others to go fulfill their callings and be the agent of peace everywhere they go. We will be back again in 2019 with more artists and concepts, but for now, we are thankful to successfully wrapped all of our presentation throughout 2018. We thank your support to our jazz community, we wouldn’t be able to make it without you! We wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Stay positive, always be blessed.
Watch the highlights of Braga Jazz Night #54
See more pictures:
Reporter and photographer: Riandy Kurniawan .