by Elizabeth Leong (18S06G), Liu Enqi (18S03C)
For many, jazz brings to mind a distant era and faraway setting – a lively American nightclub in the 1940s, perhaps. Some may consider it elusive, especially compared to styles like pop or rock. Despite this, Raffles Jazz successfully acquainted its audience with the genre, immersing them in an afternoon of music last Thursday during their free concert, Power Trip.
The audience was sprawled on various chairs and cushions on the floor as the first song was introduced: Saint Louis Blues, a lively composition written in 1914, one of the most recorded popular songs of that time. This was followed by It’s Only a Paper Moon, which included a violinist in the lineup – not a common instrument in jazz bands. Despite some puzzled looks exchanged between the band members, the song was smoothly performed without hesitation, with each solo drawing applause.
Next in the setlist was a Brazilian piece of the Bossa Nova subgenre, O Barquinho (Portuguese for “Little Boat”). The performance did well in conveying the quiet serenity of a small boat floating on the vast expanse of the ocean, as per the song’s intention.
Jazz brought in two funk and funk inspired pieces, which they explained as “derivatives of the jazz genre” — in that funk is deeply rooted in its direct ancestor, jazz. The first funk song, Wait for the Moment, was a charming piece originally by American band Vulfpeck. The emcee shared an amusing story with the audience: Vulfpeck once successfully crowdfunded a tour by releasing an album of silent tracks, Sleepify, on Spotify. Fans were encouraged to repeatedly stream the “album” as they slept, to increase the band’s revenue!
The Raffles Jazz batch of 2016 came onstage to perform the next song, The Way You Look Tonight. The year spent away from the CCA did nothing to diminish their skill, and the audience was left impressed with the strong vocals and improvisations on the keys, bass and drums. The existing club members took the stage again, revisiting the funk subgenre in their performance of the second funk song, Nakamarra, a Grammy-nominated piece by the Australian quartet Hiatus Kaiyote.
Perhaps the most recognisable piece of the afternoon was Someday My Prince Will Come, a Disney classic from the 1937 animated movie Snow White. Its familiar, delicate melody transitioned into a livelier version of the song, with bouncing chords, interesting violin parts and confident solos on the keys and bass. This concluded Raffles Jazz’s setlist for the concert.
But the audience was not left disappointed, as many “jamming songs” were also performed for their listening pleasure. These included Corcovado, a Bossa Nova piece with smooth vocals, L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole and Bag’s Groove by Milt Jackson. The jazz standard Fly Me to the Moon was performed with lively belted lyrics and solos on the electric guitar and keys. Before their performance of My Funny Valentine, vocalist Kaye warned the audience that the song was “impromptu” and had not been practiced much. “I’m reading the lyrics from my phone,” she sheepishly admitted. This was, however, an unnecessary warning as the performance was remarkably cohesive, with reassured improvisation and a steady rhythm, showcasing the performers’ skill.
When Alice In Wonderland, a surprise item again by the recently graduated batch, was announced as the last song of the concert, the audience let out a disappointed chorus of “aw”s. It was a fantastic finale, again allowing the musicality of the performers to shine. A huge round of applause began as the final notes rang out. The audience took their time in leaving the venue, many still in awe at the show they had just witnessed.
In relaying the background of each performed song and delivering beautiful renditions of each piece, Raffles Jazz certainly made this genre of music accessible to the Rafflesian community. The inclusion of jazz-inspired songs from the 2000s (Nakamarra and Wait for the Moment) served to challenge the misconception that jazz music is a thing from the distant past, but instead a constantly evolving, dynamic art form. The audience not only brought home memories of an extremely enjoyable experience, but also new knowledge regarding jazz and its subgenres. This was almost entirely owed to Jazz, as they endeavoured to explain the context behind each song — its history and the narrative that accompanies it. It was indeed a wonderful afternoon for all.
If you did not manage to catch Power Trip, or would simply like to see Raffles Jazz in action again, fear not! They will be holding a concert this May, with details to be released closer to the event.