All That Jazz: Coffee for Your Blues

By Chew Cheng Yu (16S06L)
Photos by Nicholas Chang (16S03K) and Nadya Ang (15S03I)

The one thing that rouses Raffles Jazz like no other is a soulful song. Performers were peppy indeed as they played their opening song – charmingly titled Soul with a capital S.

The Jazz band in the swing of their performance.

Such was the high note that Coffee Blues, Jazz’s annual concert, had started on. They had outdone themselves this year, as tickets had sold out the day before the actual day of the concert on 8 May. Our quirky emcees, Carmen Leong (16S03S) and Melody Kang (15S03C), briefly introduced the history of jazz to the audience: It had originated in African-American communities over a hundred years ago, and is, today, a part of many musical genres that were heavily influenced by the creations of African slaves in America back then. To quote Melody, Jazz is a genre that is unique for its focus on “improvisation and band interaction”, splendidly shown by the various pieces as members shifted the focus onto different instruments now and then.

Melody (left) and Carmen (right) giving an introduction about jazz

In a creative fashion, Jazz’s concert was split into two different segments – the concert segment, and the acting segment. “It’s a Jazz tradition,” said Erica Ngiam (15S03E), chairperson of Raffles Jazz. “Having two different segments [always] helps bond the J1s, who all have to act. History shows that it appeals to the audience, so it’s why we continued it [this year].”

Thus commenced the concert segment, where a rich variety of songs embodying a diverse spectrum of emotions were performed. A slow, steady jazz remix of Someday My Prince will Come from Snow White set the mood for their following slower pieces such as Black Orpheus and then Misty, a jazz-ballad. Of course, there were more upbeat songs in the mix, such as an instrumental piece titled Freddie Freeloader, an acapella arrangement of Mr. Sandman, a vocal piece On Green Dolphin Street, another instrumental piece Five Spot After Dark, and Shining Star, which was as hyped and energetic as their first song. Among their songs was an interesting tidbit – their very own jazz-ified instrumental rendition of We Are, an opening theme song of popular Japanese anime One Piece.

During the break, a fan from the audience commented that “the songs were well done, and the renditions were pretty impressive for a school jazz band,” citing Freddie Freeloader in particular. After the intermission, we were promptly seated for their acting segment, with several gavel bangs and a resounding “Order in the court!” as a teaser for what was to come.

The acting segment was a romantic comedy short featuring Draco Malfoy being sentenced to community service, namely working at a cafe, as part of his punishment for war crimes. As we were brought on a humour filled journey, featuring Draco and his egoistic antics, different jazz songs were performed in relation to the stage of the story – such as Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely when meeting his serious boss, and Jimmy McHugh’s On the Sunny Side of the Street upon reuniting with Victoria despite losing their memories of each other. John Chew Geronimo Jr. (16A01E), who played Draco, maintained that “the acting went fine, and the play served its purpose [of entertaining the audience well]”.

Draco, reluctant to deign himself to being in the presence of Muggles, played by John Chew.

As the play drew to an end, and curtain calls made, there were cheers and yells from the audience for an encore, to which the J2 performers responded with Bobby Hebb’s Sunny; the encore was complete with flashing lights and all the performers lining up below the stage to take another bow. After that dramatic conclusion of the night, the audience left feeling slightly more spirited, and lighter on their feet.

As for our final verdict, Jazz had deserved every moment of glory in their sold-out concert, and all the more so after we found out from Erica that the band had “only had one month for practicing all their songs and acting after the J2s’ first Common Tests”. Owing to this, the band indeed had much reason to be proud of themselves, especially the J1s who had gone all out for their acting in the comedic segment. The concert was overall a success, showcasing skilful acts by talented performers which had, by the end, inspired a sense of nostalgia within those present, for the ‘blue’ days of soulful and chipper music from a more distant, long-forgotten era.

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