Jazzuality @ TP : Swingin Christmas : The Report

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As you might already know, we are now running two regular events every month. One at the location we have been in for the last 3 and a half year, the Braga CityWalk, and the other one is just started last month, at the TP Stage, the cozy jazz lounge of the 5-star hotel, The Papandayan. That means, now we have two places where we can give our support towards the regeneration of jazz musicians and the development in Indonesia especially in Bandung.

We name the one in the TP Stage “JAZZUALITY @ TP “. As we are now in December, we make our second episode special for Christmas celebration. Three showcases presenting two duos (one instrumental and one with vocal) and a participation from a very well established music school where jazz is ringing, that’s what the menu for this time. Oh yeah, “Swingin’ Christmas” is the theme, showing our intention to celebrate it in swing.

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Performing first was the duo consisting of young jazz dudes: Anjuan Julio Siahaan (guitar) and Jason Limanjaya (piano), together as Juan Jason Project. We always consider them as two of the best and most interesting jazz musicians coming from the new generation. Jason and Juan are equipped with great skill and sharp in sense. Both of them shine in each of their bands: Juan in AFA Trio and Jason in The New Equinox and Nayra Dharma Group), but they have also played together in one band like Funktop and the most recently with New Blood.

Since the end of last year, we have heard that Juan and Jason were establishing a project filled by just them. They have graced many stages soon after from jazz to blues. We haven’t got the chance to feature them, but in this special Swingin’ Christmas edition finally we got them.

What’s interesting about these young men is that they both can make good compositions. They like to draw inspiration from daily lives, what they see, hear or feel, but they see it from the different angle. If Juan is more serious in selecting his subjects, Jason seems to have playful mind as he takes funny matters. They brought these subjects up in a story telling mode by using their respective instruments.

Jazzuality-TP-SwinginChristmas-JuanJasonProject (2)Right after we opened up the show and introduced them, they locked up with a song to fit the occasion, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. They made it like jamming, fully depending on their feel and connection all the way to the end. After that, Juan told everyone that the next song is about his wish to share his life with someone. “Looking for Love”, that’s the title, composed in Samba mode inspired by one of Chick Corea’s song. Juan didn’t want to make it as a sad ballad, instead he described it sweet and romantic with cheerful vibes.

Then Jason got her turn to introduce his composition. “I’m no Don Juan, I’m not the romantic kind of guy,” he said laughing. What his composition based on is not most of people would think of, it’s called “Lutung”, in English means langur, the old world monkey. This song is so playful. Sneaky, jolly jumper and naughty, we guess portraying the daily life of langur in a wild forest. He injected some ethnic touches here and there while trading some jumping notes with Juan.

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The interesting song carried on with another unusual source of inspiration Jason had in mind: “Baso Tahu”. For our foreign readers, baso tahu is one of the common food from West Java. Fried dumpling is probably the closest way to say it in English. It’s bluesy, boppin’ and full of free-flowing improvisations. The audience became a part of this song too as Juan asked everyone to repeat his made up lyrics. Jason just laughed at that attempt while still twisting his fingers above the keys. They had lots of fun with “Winter Wonderland” which became the last drop of their show. Loud cheers and applause were thrown to them.

We simply love the way they tell stories. From inspiring message, daily life experience to funny stuffs to Christmas songs to fit the theme, all served effortlessly in the free improvising spirit. It’s like they let us go into their dialogue which is fun to follow. There’s no doubt that these young fellas are outstanding musicians, and when they join forces, they always come out with something different. Just two players playing pure jazz, but it was fascinating and pleasuring. A very great start for the Swingin’ Christmas courtesy of Juan Jason Project.

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In the second session we presented the students of well established music school with international curriculum along with their teacher. The school is ME Music Centre, formed by pianist/teacher Michelle Efferin in 2006, just a year after she graduated from Sydney, Australia. This school uniquely accept students as early as 2 years old and allow kids at the age of 4 to join the music and vocal classes. No wonder the ME Music Centre is able to present kids who could sing and play jazz really well.

Just a week earlier the school has just held their Christmas concert where not only showcased good quality of kids and youngsters from ME but also marked the reunion between Michelle Efferin and violinist Ammy Kurniawan. We manage to bring a slice of it. The combination of teachers : Michelle (piano), Oggie Samuel (guitar), Iwan (bass) and Richard (drum) with some of the best ones today among the students: Kevin Chrisandy (vocal), Madeleine Abigail (keys and vocal), Patricia Angelica (vocal), Christopher Emmanuel (vocal), Sydney Gabrielle (vocal) and Michelle’s daughter, 6 year-old Kezia Alexis (vocal) brought the Christmas joy into this event for around half an hour or so.

Jazzuality-TP-SwinginChristmas-MEMusicCentre (3)The teens quickly stood in straight line facing the audience and sang “Mas Que Nada”. This song immidiately spread the joy. The happy samba mode, the lovely vocal harmony and the substantial works from the teachers in providing music. The solo run by these teachers were fascinating.

Then all the singers left the stage except Madeline. She felt quite nervous at first, but after Michelle hugged her and calmed her down, she’s able to control her tense. She sang “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” really, really well. She clearly has better singing skill and control over her voice now comparing to the last time we got her in our event back in the Braga Jazz Night some months ago.

Madeline then moved to the keys and her sister Sydney came in. Together they took on a Disney classic from the movie Pinocchio, “When You Wish Upon A Star”. Madeline didn’t just play the keyboard but she sang as well. These talented sisters were backed by some the teachers during their appearance.

Jazzuality-TP-SwinginChristmas-MEMusicCentre (9)Then came the time to have the youngest performer in this event, the daughter of Michelle Efferin and Richard Sirait, 6 year-old Kezia Alexis. She ran to the stage giggling when she heard her name being called, making the audience laughed for her cuteness. On stage, accompanied by her mom she sang “O Holy Night” in complete lyrics. She did really amazing. Not only she memorized all the lyrics, she’s pitch perfect and effortlessly hit the high notes. Imagine a little girl like Kezia able to face the audience and sing, no sign of having any pressure, for us that’s really remarkable. For your information, she has been gracing our stage a couple of times since last year so we know how good she is. Another note, she also plays piano, violin and great in drawing. What an amazing girl she is. If she makes us proud, we can imagine how proud she makes her mommy and daddy.

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The rest of the teens came back to the stage for one last song, “Winter Wonderland”. For us, this one is an epic due to the high level of difficulties. They chew complex vocal harmony and perfectly done each of their part. Little Kezia also joined them creating a spectacular kids vocal harmony group. It was unbelievable, how kids their age could do it, but ME Music Centre did it.

How many ensemble of kids could give a good-flowing jazz performance? Based on our experience in collaborating with the ME Music School, they do have and can provide so many. Look at the kids and teenagers, blending with their teachers as one team and brought happiness to our hearts. Having the founder and teachers who share the same dream with us, we believe we could continue and even extend our cooperation in order to see more and more skillful musicians from today’s generation. Always proud of the students and everyone in ME Music Centre. Great curriculum plus great teachers plus talented students equals great success.

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The final performance got a dynamic acoustic guitar-vocal duo, Ael/Hardi. This duo is consisting of jazz guitarist/teacher Hardi Suryana and old soul vocalist with classical background, Putri Rahel Sihombing. If you are following our articles, you should already be familiar with them since we have featured the duo a couple of times in just a short amount of time.

It’s not difficult to figure out why we love to bring them in. The duo plays and sings really well. They like to take us into a journey of time, visiting some of the best moments of jazz through smart selection of songs. They are capable to bring any concept alive and make it special. Look at how good they were when we challenged them to sing Disney. It was job well done, much much better than our expectation.

Ael has a sophisticated but strong jazz vibe in her voice, and she has a crystal clear pronounciation too, which is remarkable knowing that she came from classical background as a part of a world-winning choir. As for Hardi, this man is outstanding when it’s about spoiling jazz lovers with his delicate play.

Just like we thought, they started with a song not many thought of bringing for a jazzy Christmas. It was a very old hymn from year 1849, “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear.” The crisp voice of Ael with Hardi’s waltzin’ guitar work was perfect to bring this song back again on stage. Then Ael took another song not many remember anymore eventhough it’s from not too distant past, a song mostly associated with the great Tony Bennett, “Christmas in Herald Square.” This song totally fits her like a puzzle piece found its exact place.

Next was a song from 1953, a tongue-in-cheek look at a woman who made a Christmas list full of royal, extravagant gifts adressed to Santa Claus: “Santa Baby”. It was Eartha Kitt who sang it for the first time but then so many singers have recorded it throughout the years, including the likes of Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Ariana Grande. Cute and notty nature of this song was captured nicely by Ael/Hardi. For the last tune, they played one of the most popular song for Christmas, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)”.

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We may probably enjoy the big band, full band or combo for Christmas songs, but a beautiful acoustic approach certainly works for this specific theme as well. Especially when it lies in good arms. Good teamwork, good play, good sing, good songlist once again came from Ael/Hardi. They made it looks simple, but what they bring is actually classy. We still have many ideas for this cool acoustic old-soul jazz duo (including “Sings Disney part 2”), we hope they would agree to be a part of our event again in the near future.

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Jazzuality-TP-SwinginChristmas-JamSession (3)That was the end of all performances, but then since there were many of the audience wished to be a part of the show, we opened up the jam session. Dr Ervina Pasaribu who came with her husband quickly positioned herself on stage, followed by Jason Limanjaya (piano), Eleazar Yoshua and Anjuan Julio (guitars), Christ Kevin (bass on keyboard) and Oce Kamlasi (drum). This group sang “All of Me”, and then “Just the Two of Us” with Jason and Christ exchanging role.

Jazzuality-TP-SwinginChristmas-JamSession (2)One of the audience, Mrs Poppy then replaced Ervina to sing “Days of Wine and Roses”. In this song, Anjuan surprisingly moved to drums while his place was taken by Jabez Bezaleel Chan. The surprise became even bigger when Mr Hari Pochang joined the crowds with his cool harp for “Route 66”. In this song Juan went to keyboard to play bass while Jason now became the drummer! What a scene, what a jam session! Since it was really late already, the event reached the end.

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We are happy to be able to bring a swingin’ Christmas celebration into the cool, cozy lounge of TP Stage. From kids, teenagers, young adults to experts, from students to teachers, all gathered together to make one of our Christmas events this year felt merry and bright. Thank you to all participating artists, the Papandayan, supporters and certainly to everyone who came. Remember, we can’t hope to see the successful regeneration of jazz musicians and the development if no one comes. So, we really appreciate your coming.

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We still have another Christmas event coming just in a couple of days: The Braga Jazz Night : Christmas Smoothies at the Braga CityWalk (Read the article here: http://jazzuality.com/jazz-events/braga-jazz-night-42-christmas-smoothies/ ). A totally different concept and lineup will be there to bring their own version of Christmas gig. We hope you join us again this Thursday. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrate it. Let there be peace on earth, keep spreading positive vibes and love to one another. Our nation needs it more than ever. God bless you all.

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Reporter and photographer: Riandy Kurniawan

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