CCA Previews '20: Raffles Jazz

By Alvan Png (20A03A), Chairperson, Lam Weng Chung (20S03Q), Vice-Chairperson, Kong Pek Yan (20S06A), Secretary, and Teo Gi Sing (20S06T), Quartermaster

“Do not fear mistakes—there are none.”

Miles Davis

Honestly, Jazz is kind of weird. 

From rampant dissonances and blistering solos, to straight-up spicy harmonies—it’s easy to call all these things “mistakes”. But as jazz musicians, the contemporary palette of tools we have for expression and context-giving is so large that, in the words of Vincent Persichetti, “Any tone can proceed any tone […] and any group of tones can proceed any group of other tones”. 

People joke about it. A lot. But with such a wide array of tools at our disposal, there really are no wrong notes and no mistakes, as long as the performer has what Mr. Persichetti calls “skill and soul”. Thus, in Raffles Jazz, we seek to bring out that skill and soul, to showcase that freedom of self-expression—the ability to not fear mistakes, because there are none. And because of that, joining Raffles Jazz—while kind of weird—is never a mistake.

Flowery language aside, who are we really? We are a small group of individuals fascinated by the jazz genre and the possibilities it brings, passionate about the craft and intricacy behind the musical form. Beyond that, we’re also a one-of-a-kind, tight-knit CCA, who are always eager to learn more about, and get better at jazz through conversation and communication with one another.

Our CCA sessions are held every Wednesday from 2.30pm to 4.30 pm and Friday from 2.30pm to 5.30 pm. We meet to practice for any upcoming gigs and quality checks, or just to jam together and enjoy the process of music-making. However, in the lead-up to gigs or concerts, there are usually extra practice sessions added to ensure that we are ready for our performances.

Now, that sounds rather serious, but fear not! We don’t just play music together—we play together as well. Through our nervous backstage dancing sessions as we wait for our turn to perform during gigs, playing the LickTM on recorders during our annual post production party, and spamming sending innumerable unglams of our vice-chairs, we’ve managed to create a family out of a random bunch of individuals who just happen to all love jazz. And this chemistry that we’ve built is what we strive to show the audience whenever we perform.

Speaking of which, some gigs that we’ve done in 2019 include National Day, Teacher’s Day, as well as Batch Night! These are great opportunities where we get to express ourselves to a large audience, so if you love performing, they will be right up your alley.

National Day Celebrations (2019).

Besides having regular practices, we also have sectionals and quality checks by our professional instructors who are always ready to provide us with invaluable guidance and advice. These help us better our technical and communicative skills, both as individuals and as a team.

We also have a tight-knit Raffles Jazz family made up of generations of friendly and dedicated seniors who always return to guide us in different ways. Raffles Jazz is not merely a space, it is a place, a home for passionate jazz musicians who are always ready to support each other at all times. Like how a real family navigates the unpredictable struggles of reality through the warmest support and encouragement, so too does the Raffles Jazz extended family tree help YOU to explore the unpredictable, weird, and wonderful world of jazz.

At this point, I bet some of you probably aren’t even reading this article anymore. Well, good news—you won’t have to read notes in jazz either! If you’re new to jazz, or maybe even to playing instruments found in a jazz band like ours (i.e. keyboards, guitars, drums, bass), it’s perfectly okay! While we do require some basic instrument competency, Raffles Jazz operates very differently from a classically-trained ensemble! Like we said, jazz is weird, and because of that it has its own notations, structures and technical mumbo-jumbo unique to it and nothing else. Many of us also started from square one musically; however, with dedication, an open mind to new sounds and ideas, and much help from seniors, instructors, and batchmates, anything is possible! It’s never too late to start listening and (hopefully) learning one’s way about the intricacies of jazz. We’re all here to grow, improve, and most importantly, make music together, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

Some songs we’d really like to recommend you listen to are: “Autumn Leaves”, “Blue Bossa”, “Sir Duke”, “Take the ‘A’ Train”, “Wave”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “What a Wonderful World”, “Spain”, “Giant Steps”, “Isn’t She Lovely”, and “Cheek to Cheek”. Just remember that these are just a couple of recommendations in a sea of artful jazz standards, so feel free to explore the genre on your own too.

Perhaps you’re still hesitant. You’re thinking: How can I know if this strange club is really right for me? Would I be making a mistake by joining this club? Well, like we said earlier, there are no mistakes in jazz, but if you really, really have your doubts for some inexplicable reason, simply head down to our pre-audition workshops! Taking place in early 2020, we will be there to answer any burning questions you may have, and also to put on a small performance of jazz standards for you to enjoy! You can get a clearer glimpse of the genre and the types of songs we perform, to make a more insightful, informed decision… that decision being to join Raffles Jazz, of course.

As Barry B. Benson once said, “Ya like jazz?”. And here in Raffles Jazz, we really, really do. So if you’d like to join us in our eternal appreciation of jazz, we hope to see you at our pre-audition workshop and at our non-pre-audition-auditions. As they always say:

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