This article is part of the CCA Previews for 2016.
By John Chew Geronimo Jr (16A01E), Chairperson; Konstanze Tan Wan Yu (16S03A), Vice-chairperson; Kok Feng Rui, Danson (16S05A), Quartermaster; Jin Minjia (16S06K), Secretary
“Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz is rage. Jazz flows like water. Jazz never seems to begin or end. Jazz isn’t methodical, but Jazz isn’t messy either. Jazz is a conversation, a give and take. Jazz is the connection and communication between musicians. Jazz is abandon.”- Nat Wolff
As suggested by the quote, Jazz is a social and communicative art form. The average day in the life of a Jazzer is thus a day of conversation, be it through verbal or musical means, within the vibrant yet cosy family that is Raffles Jazz.
The Jazzers are a close-knit community of musicians, passionate about their craft, and even more passionate about constantly honing their music through jam sessions. Jazz requires a balance between individuality and togetherness, as the music not only needs to be played cohesively as a band, but should also possess a personal stylistic contribution through improvisation. To help strike such a balance, our time in Jazz involves constant self-evaluation and improvement, which can take the form of various jazz recordings as a CCA or even personal “woodshedding”. We also have help from external instructors, all of whom are established musicians in the local jazz scene. Each instructor of the respective sections (vocalists, soloists, bassists, guitarists, drummers, keyboardists) offers a host of experience in playing various styles and forms of music and valuable insights into playing in the world of the professional musician. Paired with the encouragement and sharing of knowledge by fellow Jazzers, this conducive environment definitely helps everyone in the CCA to grow and become vastly better musicians than ever before.
Far from being “whiplashesque”, Raffles Jazz has always been an environment that encourages collective excellence, not merely personal success. This means we make a conscious effort to elevate every single member of the CCA, despite their respective experience and skill levels. We make sure that everyone has a comfortable personal command of their instrument and basic understanding of their role in the band. Chemistry amongst band members is key in Jazz, and upon honing our personal skills on our instruments, we focus on the ability to listen to each other and create together on the fly. As such, the focus of band practice sessions also encompasses interpersonal elements which allow for a deeper level of communication to occur. Such band practice sessions are usually held on Wednesdays from 2.30pm-4.30pm in the Jamming Studios, during which we jam not only classic jazz standards, but also sloppy funk grooves and tear-jerking blues tunes. However, the frequency of these sessions increases in the lead-up to gigs that Jazz takes up, in addition to the annual concert that usually happens around April/May.
The annual concert is the moment we are given the opportunity to present what we have been working on to the school population. Raffles Jazz has also been engaged in various gigs including The Humanities Initiative (THI), which saw us busking along the busy Orchard Road shopping belt, as well as school functions including the National Day concert, when members swung some national day favourites. We were also invited to perform at the Music Salon for members of the public who enjoyed listening to jazz. In 2015, Jazz also had the privilege of collaborating with the Photography Club to provide ambience and an enriched audio-dimension to the visual treats during the exhibition.
As a sagely senior once said: “Learning jazz is like learning a new language”- indeed, in all its audible beauty, Jazz has its own subtle, intangible nuances that can be challenging to pick up. If you still aren’t sure if you’re prepared for the experience or if Jazz is really going to be your cup of tea, fret not: a pre-audition workshop will be held prior to CCA auditions during the week of 18th-22nd Jan as a taster for the genre of Jazz, featuring a speaker’s session and a live demonstration of the audition songs. Prospective members of Raffles Jazz will then have to undergo an audition and an interview. Sounds intimidating? Perhaps so, but the love of music prevails. Passion is imperative, simply because passion produces the perseverance that transforms bizarre chords into interesting ones and freakish rhythms into endlessly fun ones.
In the words of the great jazz bassist Charles Haden: “As long as there are musicians who have a passion for spontaneity, for creating something that’s never been before, the art form of jazz will flourish.” See you in the Jamming Studios!