The Small Duck: Jazz Showcase

By Shervon Lee (19S06A), Kuang Shane Qi (19A13A), Asfar Alim (18S03J)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society

Last Thursday afternoon, a smooth melody emanated from the TSD. This was none other than the members of Raffles Jazz, who were hard at work making the final preparations for their showcase, The Small Duck. As the title suggests, the showcase was held on a smaller scale with a smaller audience. As a result, the performances seemed more casual, where the Jazz members performed for no other reason than to, well, perform.

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The stage was all set for the Jazz members.

Beginning as a lowkey, laid-back, and languid affair, the showcase eased into motion with Take Five and Tadow. Saxophone solos and intricate guitar/bass duets lulled the audience, while surprise variations in drum beats provided enough variety to keep listeners on their toes. The following piece, Waltz for Debby, showcased keyboardist Kaitlyn Ng’s (18S06G) skill as she virtuosically manoeuvred between chords and scales.

The concert truly began to pick up the pace with Lullaby of Birdland. This song is usually performed as a smooth, slow ballad; but when has Jazz ever followed the norm? The band transformed Birdland into a bouncy and childlike number, which evoked vivid imagery of a whimsical land full of fluttering songbirds. Amazing vocals aside, what truly won the audience over was the chemistry between the band members – when everyone onstage is laughing and moving to the music, you can’t help but feel invigorated, too.

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Vocalist Tara Teo (18A01E) drew laughs from the audience with her series of expressions.

Wave then swept listeners into the leisurely pace of bossa nova music. Much like the ebb and flow of the tides, the different instrumental sections complemented each other perfectly. The delicate strumming of guitars, the drum accompaniment, and the saxophone’s fluid modulations between keys made for a relaxing ride. In contrast, Twenty Four Hours was a jaunty tune that set everyone’s feet a-tapping.

If anyone had been dozing off, the next song would have jolted all of them to alertness. As heavy, pounding drum beats filled the TSD, one thought was on all our minds: did we walk in on a Raffles Rock concert? Stratus, a jazz-rock hybrid, featured heart-stopping solos by all instruments and showcased the band’s versatility.

It didn’t take long for vocalist Junius Pun (18S02A) to resume his position back at the mic for the next song, 1612. While keeping the mood high, Junius belted out somewhat successful high notes, jolting the audience into bouts of laughter when he failed to hit them. The good humour of the Jazz members and the audience certainly made the whole experience, including the occasional off-key singing, even more enjoyable for everyone.

If anyone was getting bored of the same few faces, the Batch of 2017, headed by vocalist See Kaye, rose to the occasion to put up a surprise special performance. They started with Virtual Insanity, in which the drums, keys and guitar came together to make every single member of the audience feel like they were in a five-star hotel lobby. Right after that was the Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) Medley, which got the audience bobbing along to the upbeat tones of the keys and drums.

Soon enough, the stage was handed back to Tara, Lim Tian Jiao (18A01C) on the double bass and Nicholas Ho (18S06M) on the bass for the song Fever. In contrast to the sensual lyrics of the song, the song started off with Nicholas taunting Tian Jiao on the double bass, creating a tension that the audience did not expect. A playful fight between the players of these two similarly-named instruments then commenced, providing a rather entertaining show as the audience laughed at their childlike antics.

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A dramatic pause during Tian Jiao’s and Nicholas’ quarrel.

This playful rivalry carried into their next song, Beastly, during which even the Jazz members themselves shook their heads in amusement. Lei Zemin (18S03B) on Keys even went as far as to hop out from behind the keyboard to taunt Nicholas (who responded in kind, thank you very much), eliciting laughter that lit up the TSD. The comfortable yet pleasant buzz in the atmosphere certainly got the audience swaying to the music, soaking up the Good Vibes™.

Thus far, the showcase seemed to be smooth sailing. After the next performance, Get You, Junius took the mic and announced “I’m going to sing Korean” which elicited laughter from the audience. This was the lead-in to Jazz’s moving rendition of Kim Jonghyun’s Blinking Game. The keys and bass, together with Junius’ vocals, amplified the heaviness of this song, which made it easy to get lost in its melody. Although there was some improvisation by Junius to sing this song, it was an overall commendable attempt.

Next up was a duet between Tara and Junius for the song She was Mine. This was where the previous improvisation became apparent as Tara ended up forgetting some of the lyrics. Despite this, the jazz members and audience laughed off the slight slip-ups while cheering on for the duet. The supportive atmosphere certainly made the performance more enjoyable to watch. The Small Duck then concluded with a cheery finale song dedicated to the teachers-in-charge of Jazz – Ms Samantha Prakash and Mr Ng Kar Kit.

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Despite trip-ups, the duet finished strong :)

One thing that was evident from the showcase was the immense teamwork from the Jazz members, when they hyped up the performances by their fellow teammates by clapping and snapping along to the beat of the songs. They were also encouraging to the performers when there were any mistakes. Guitarist Jeremy Xiao (18A01B) commented that “we didn’t have much time to prepare, so we just sort of winged it. We were able to communicate with the band members and put on a good show”. This paid off in the end, as the audience enjoyed the concert and were engaged with the performers. Hopefully, the supportive nature of the audience members can be carried over to future events in the school.

Whether or not you attended The Small Duck, there are still more chances for you to see Raffles Jazz in action. This year, they will be holding their concert on Saturday, 5 May. Do look out for updates on their Instagram or via school announcements!

Performers
Victoria Lim, 18S02A (Drums)
Junius Pun, 18S02A (Vox)
Tara Teo, 18A01E (Vox)
Jeremy Xiao, 18A01B (Guitar)
Lei Zemin, 18S03B (Keys)
Kaitlyn Ng, 18S06G (Keys)
Kwek Min Yih, 18S06G (Soloist)
Scott Tay, 18S06E (Soloist)
Nicholas Ho, 18S06M (Bass)
Lim Tian Jiao, 18A01C (Bass)

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