CCA Previews ’17: Raffles Jazz

By Elyn Tzen Yo-Lin (17S03B), Chairperson; Kelly Siah Xinjie (17S06F), Vice-Chairperson; Ho Xi-Yen Cristel (17A01D), Quartermaster; Zou Tangming (17S03N), Secretary

“If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit.” — Miles Davis

In pop culture, flashy stages and unabashed swagger may seem like the real deal. Not so for jazz. Only two things matter in a jazz performance: the music, and the moment. Here in the land of jazz, with its historical roots in counterculture and the aspiration towards cultural freedom, nothing makes for a better stage than the opportunity for heartfelt musical expression.

Jazz is not just the result of finding a tune; Miles Davis, again, would assure you that what defines jazz music are “the notes you don’t play”. Idea, voice, and sentiment spring from within and coalesce into something coherent, yet unconfined — the music that sends listeners grooving and sets the air abuzz. In short, this balance of improvisation and intention is fundamental to the essence and the feel of jazz.

At Raffles Jazz, we explore the entire spectrum of jazz music with this same passion: from classic jazz standards, to sloppy funk grooves, to soulful blues tunes (and even beyond — who’s to say where jazz ends?). We Jazzers are a close-knit group of like-minded musicians passionate about the music we make, constantly looking to improve our skills and develop our craft. As a CCA, Raffles Jazz caters to just that — providing an environment in which everyone is able to hone their ability and develop their musicality under the guidance of seasoned instructors and seniors, to work towards mastering our instrument and our feel for jazz music.

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Photography Club exhibition, Nov 2016 — “Metamorphosis”: Band members share a moment amidst the jaunty rhythm of “Valerie”

At the same time, band chemistry is absolutely key. Oscar Peterson explained it best: “It’s the group sound that’s important, even when you’re playing a solo. You not only have to know your own instrument, you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That’s jazz.” In other words, the heart of jazz music lies in the ability of band members to listen to each other, interact with each other, and create together. Jazz is a conversation, albeit a nuanced and swift one that requires its players to be acutely aware of their team mates and the music flowing all around them.

To that end, regular band practices are held every Wednesday, from 2.30 to 4.30pm, as well as on Fridays, from 3.30 to 5.30pm. Of course, to maintain the standards with which we present our music, the frequency of these sessions will increase leading up to our annual concert in May.

While Concert is more or less the culmination of our practice sessions, there are plenty of different platforms where we are free to showcase our passion and ability. To introduce our craft to the rest of the school, and even the public at large, we take up gigs both internal and external all year round: performing for Teachers’ Day, at grassroots NDP celebrations, and not to mention at our regular gig in the Theatre Studies and Drama room (TSD) early in the year, with entry free of charge, welcoming listeners to join in and recharge with the good vibes of an afternoon jazz performance.

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Grassroots-organised NDP gig, Aug 2016: Jazzers groove to beloved National Day themes and the ever uplifting “On The Sunny Side of the Street”

Apart from our professional instructors who draw on their expertise to help us train our musical skills and build up our repertoire during sectionals, we are also fortunate to have generations of dedicated Jazz seniors returning to guide us through the intricate maze that is the journey through Jazz. Our strong alumni group is an unwavering, uplifting source of inspiration and support for all of us. As a relatively small CCA, we are incredibly bonded and this surfaces both musically, in the way we are able to put together a musical piece within minutes, and in our daily lives, in which Jazzers have become strong presences of support in the lives of each other in and out of school.

In terms of tips and advice for picking up jazz music, especially for newcomers to the genre — listen. Explore all kinds of styles, whether in terms of musicians, or arrangements, or just different songs, and then listen widely to discover for yourself how jazz really appeals to you. Possibly the most important quality for learning jazz is to keep an open mind — no matter what your musical background or level of experience, there will always be something new in jazz music to astonish you and challenge you, and at the end of the day, to inspire in you a stronger sense of self-expression and musicality.

If you’re still not too certain as to your affinity for jazz, or whether our club is the right place for you, or if you simply have reservations about the technical aspects of playing jazz music, agonise no more — a pre-audition workshop will be held roughly a week before the auditions proper, featuring a live demonstration of the audition pieces as well as an introductory session on jazz — both the genre and the CCA. Prospective juniors can look forward to a journey filled with fresh discoveries and challenges (and good music), one that is enriched infinitely more by the help and guidance of seniors, teachers and instructors — and of course each other.

“Where’s jazz going? I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.” — Thelonious Monk

Still not really sure what jazz (or Jazz) means? Don’t just take our word for it, play it! We promise it will be an incredible ride.

Hope to see you at our auditions!

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The Jazz family: Current members, seniors, and returning great-great-grand-seniors alike, all smiles after our annual concert in May 2016 — “Viva”

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