Christmas Jazz Meeting Point : The Report

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Christmas-Jazz-Meeting-Point-2013

 

Bells are probably don’t ring too much in Indonesia, but Christmas spirit can still be found easily everywhere. Especially in big cities, the celebration is felt wherever you go. The malls are full with Christmas trees, blinkin lights, colorful ribbons and songs related to the season. In a cafe named Sixty-Meeting Point & Cafe in Bandung, the solid local Jazz community Klab Jazz served their last show for 2013, closing all the live events which reach 75 shows with one special celebration. It’s supposed to be the 6th episode of Jazz Meeting Point, but since it was served near 25th of December, Klab Jazz decided to dedicate this episode for Christmas and changed the title to Christmas Jazz Meeting Point. It should be difficult for Klab Jazz to find the ready performers during the holiday season like this, but they managed to get not only 5 but 6 bands/groups to fill the slot. There are many exclusive Christmas and New Year events that cost a fortune, so expensive that many of us could only stare helplessly on the poster, but thank God there’s still a free show like this to accomodate the need of celebrating it in Jazzy way. It’s free, but still the audience could expect good quality of performers. Served humble and friendly, with the artists mingled with the audiences/cafe guests, this show meets our wish to see one lovely jazzy Christmas package.

 

The decision to start it at 8:00 pm was good, because it’d be impossible to drive around the city earlier during the holiday season like this. Christmas Jazz Meeting Point was opened by Michelle Efferin and Friends. Ever since she’s back from her study in Australia, Michelle has been focusing in teaching the kids on how to sing and play jazz. She has her own music school named Michelle Efferin (M.E.) Music School and teaches there while also performing here and there. The last time we saw her was when she presented the children choir from her music school called JFK (Jazz For Kids) Choir, this time she brought four singers from the choir, ranging from children to teenagers. Simply call it JFK Quartet, the way Michelle mentioned these girls.

Michelle opened up with a short solo piano recital before the rest joined her. “Christmas is about love”, she said, explaining why she started with “My Romance.” The band consists of musicians  that she’s been playing with for the past 6 years. “Some wonders why I don’t call it Michelle Efferin Quartet… the reason is that I don’t consider them as just my band but dear friends.” she said. Her own husband Richard Sirait as usual stood behind the drums, then Oggie Samuel on guitar and Iwan on bass. Then she called the young girl choir: 9 year-old Sydney, 12 year-old Madeleine and two Iwan’s daughters: Lolita and Sheila that she has taught for a year. A cool boppin’ layered these lovely children in pinning the classic “Winter Wonderland” and Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.” Michelle didn’t just use the electric piano but also a melodica, something that we rarely seen before. Her other friends that also teaches vocals in her school, Rita gave an awesome singing technique in “Chesnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The JFK Quartet came back with a bluesy boppin’ “Straight No Chaser” with lyrics. One last bite from them was “Jingle Bells” in cute cabaret style with lots of goodies inside.

We don’t see her often nowadays on stage, but when we do see her, we always enjoy her easy-listening jazz package. Jazz will never appear to complex from her. It can be accepted by common listeners without having to bring down the essences and basics of this particular genre. What a lovely starter it was.

 

Next was a band with young players, Titik Awal. Since the band was established in 2005, the band has been moving up, climbing the difficult stairs of fame with confident. Melvhin Samuel Harapenta Sitepu on vocal, Narendradipa Soemantri on drums, Boby Suryo Alam on bass, Gama Ramadhani on guitar have been having great year in 2013 by performing in many events in Bandung and other cities, all the way to reach Kalimantan. During their show the band’s often supported by many additional players. What they like is to bring a party while trying to connect with the audiences as much as possible. They do play jazz, but always try to fit it to the current trend, making their music be easily accepted by the young music lovers. We have heard their original songs and covers, but what would they serve in a special themed show like this?

The answer is: they combined Christmas songs and their own. A smooth, sentimental “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas” was brought only in duo by the singerMelvhin and pianist Rifky. The rest of the band gathered afterwards to sing “Jingle Bells” followed by their fresh original song “Teh Manis Cinta”. A slower version of Utha Likumahuwa’s hit “Esok Kan Masih Ada” came right after. For the last presentation they sang their new song “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”,, calling us to unite despite of all the differences. Other than the catchy groove, this song also has an ethnic vocal touch that added much flavors into the already good composition.

As Titik Awal means Starting Point, we can see that the band’s been successfully climbing up one step higher at a time from the starting point. Other than being true to themselves, they always love to encourage young people to follow their passion. Easy listening, groovy with the mission to spread positive vibes, what’s not to like from them.

 

Then came the time to see the multi-faceted band, Out of 7. Born less than a year ago, this band consists of talents found in some curches. On vocals is Erick Gabe who has wild singing character, wide vocal range and special ability to sound some instruments with his voice. On keyboard is Widiyanto Sutanto, also the arranger for the group. This young man loves to take risk in running the outside notes. Unlike most of the band, the drumset is given to an energetic young girl Marissa Wiguna. Still 19 years of age but she’s already fully equipped with variety of style. The guitarist Herman Yulianto is rooted in Fusion who has rock and blues as his killing punch. Then Abet Darmaji is the one responsible in bringing melodic groove for the band.

The band started with a simple package “White Christmas” and then swingin’ sweetly with “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow” in medley with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. In the second part Erick stopped singing, instead he sounded the trombone in carrying the melody. Perhaps it was a surprise when they decided to go with Chick Corea’s everlasting composition “Spain”, but it became more surprising when they pinned this song in total wild approach. A lot of tradings found between them, manic improvisation, and of course, they gained a lot of cheers and applauses during this song. To end up their session, they chose to bring “Gloria in Excelcis Deo” but in the whole new different Hard Rock outfit. How crazy it is to play this one with Linkin’ Park’s “In the End”? But they did it, very well.  Although this song is basically rock, there were several jazz lines found within the song, especially from Widiyanto’s play. They repeated it again in this event, showing that jazz can actually live very well inside a full rock pattern, so this time it’s not a fusion but a solid rock with jazz inside.  Once again they bagged a lot of praises from the audiences.

Looking at its age, the band’s still a baby. But this band is really promising by having great talents inside it. So far they have tasted the international stage of JakJazz Festival, Bandung’s annual event Espose and several appearances in Klab Jazz’s events just to mention a few. Unlimited possibilities can come out of 7 different notes in a music scale, that’s what they believe, and by looking at their passion and wild attitude, it’d become even more uncountable. Kudos to you guys, march on up high!

 

Agnes & the Gank filled the third slot. Led by Agnes Stephanie Kaunang, a considerably new female jazz vocalist, the group began with “Feliz Navidad”. The Gank consists of 3 players: keyboardist Yovie , bassist Paul and drummer Kevin. The second song was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas in smooth funk then one of the David ‘Hitman’ Foster’s “My Grown Up Christmas List”. Sealing up the performance, Agnes and the Gank gave “This Christmas”.  Agnes Kaunang’s singing voice was mesmerizing tonight, the band too. A lot of smiles were captured on their stage, as they were having joy in playing Christmas song in this special celebration.

By acknowledging how often she’s been supporting Klab Jazz’s events, we know that we will meet her again soon. It’s always nice to see a potential talent like her. It’s true that the music industry can sometimes be cruel and unfair, at least she can utilize every good things she received from Above in order to succeed.

 

Then the most supporting musician for Klab Jazz in 2013 got his turn. It’s Christ Stanley, a young pianist with complete skill. Many of you might have known him as one of the Halfwhole Project members, but occasionally he also plays in different projects. This time he brings another group he simply called Christ Stanley Trio, but actually he performed in a quartet, with two of his Halfwhole Project partners drummer Edward Manurung and saxophonist Kenneth Timotius Djaja. The bassist of this group is Jalu Rohanda.

They started sailing with Jaco Pastorius’ “Chicken” and then moved on to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” with a little folk touch. John Coltrane’s “Giant Step” became the next choice where they had a lot of fun and then delivered a bluesy-hard boppin’ gospel on “Go Tell It On the Mountain”.

A jazz musician like Christ Stanley and the friends backing him tonight should be kept alive in order to preserve the joy of modern Jazz the way it was in the beginning. Presenting it like the jam session in Milton House many decades ago, we could trace back how Jazz managed to become not just a music but also a spirit-shouting and heart-pouring session by the players. Well, it’s Halfwhole Project with a twist, the fun factor was at the same height, the thirst of jazz was totally quenched. Since Kenneth now has moved to Jakarta, we don’t know how the group will be in 2014, but let’s hope they can still carry on despite of the obstacle, because we do need this kind of band if we want the traditional spirit of jazz be well kept.

 

To end the Christmas Jazz Meeting Point, three young musicians in a group called Equinox took the stage. Yohan Gunawan (piano), Ilham Septia (bass) and Alman Naufal (drum) are the boys found in it. They don’t talk much on stage, but they do play jazz well. For this event Equinox played “Oleo” which got a very long solo drumming by Alman. They went smooth and romantic with “Feels Like Making Love”, and then went dancing on “On a Green Dolphin Street”.

These kids played really well, strong in every corner. Too bad they didn’t play any Christmas songs at all to fit the theme, but nonetheless three songs from them were enough to end the show as well as the whole presentation of Klab Jazz events.

Celebrating Christmas won’t be perfect without jazz. While there are many Christmas celebrations cost big bucks, we are happy that there’s still a good quality show presented free like this one. It may not have big names, but for sure these performers play just as good. What’s important is that the Christmas spirit existed, we could celebrate it in jolly jazzy way. We extend our grattitude to Klab Jazz and all the featured bands, soundman Kanggep Kusuma and of course the venue, Sixty-Meeting Point & Cafe. If there was 75 jazz events made by Klab Jazz throughout 2013, we hope the same will happen in 2014, if not even more. Finally, we’d like to wish you all our readers Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Let there be peace on earth, keep spreading love and let’s place our hope for a better year. God Jazz you all!

See more pictures:

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Reporter: Riandy Kurniawan
Photographer: Vierna Mariska Kurniawan

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