By Raffles Jazz
Unless you’ve been living under a rock all your life, you’ve probably heard of jazz.
In fact, if you’ve lounged in a hotel lobby, been to Starbucks, or listened to Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits, you definitely have. (Nope, it’s not just in elevators)! Does jazz open your eyes to dazzling solos, captivating harmonies, and a sweeping range of exciting blues scale? Yes. Is that all we’re about? No way.
See, jazz is more than simply soothing music with a bunch of spicy chords and exquisite rhythms. Jazz is a bunch of like-minded artists putting paint brush to canvas (or stick to snare, mouth to mic, finger to fret) to produce a scintillating masterpiece. It’s like a melting pot of sounds, except no number of cooks can spoil the broth. The colours sometimes overlap, you might have a spot of yellow sand in a sea of blue, but it could very well be an intentional stroke of the brush to paint a garden green. Jazz isn’t messy—sure, everyone might be playing together, but the distinct personal voice of each painter indubitably comes to life on that common canvas—a cacophony of heavenly harmonies, and that’s the beauty of j a z z. So don’t scroll away yet; this is barely the beginning.
Perhaps you’re someone adept at reproducing levels of Ella Fitzgerald’s scatting prowess and John Coltrane’s insane solos (if that be the case, great! In fact, we’re not sure what you’re waiting for—hit us up right now). But you’re more likely to be someone whose only experience in creating jazz music is adding that single 7th note to a chord progression on the piano or belting out tunes by Michael Bublé that your parents play in the car on Christmas day. Regardless of your current level of experience with the genre, don’t be too quick to dismiss jazz as a bourgeoisie art for only the select few. So much of jazz is simply exploration and experimentation, and if you’re someone keen to do just that, Raffles Jazz might just be the place for you.
Admittedly, many of us joined the CCA with little experience dealing with the genre, at least a little overwhelmed and unsure of how to approach it and all of its complexities. But with a common love for music and good vibes, coupled with an open mind, we found ourselves stumbling upon not just an expansive repertoire of music to fall in love with, but a whole new musical language and a body of talented musicians to look up to and fawn over together.
Joining Raffles Jazz means venturing into uncharted waters; it means delving into the exciting subgenres of jazz, from chill bossas, to punchy funk and catchy swings which are bound to leave you mesmerised for days. And perhaps the greatest charm of jazz is its freedom of expression—exploring crazy ideas and experimenting with anything that comes to mind.
However, our Jazz journey has certainly not been smooth-sailing, especially due to COVID-19. Although it has been fulfilling, we found ourselves struggling to cook up a spicy solo for a jazz piece (mala dala type spicy, right?), and growing tremendously frustrated after our umpteenth failed attempt at producing a good recording. But our efforts were not in vain—witnessing our tracks fall into place to produce a sonorous tune brought us a sense of fulfilment beyond description.
With the lack of physical interaction, we had to find new approaches to coordinate rhythm, solos, and harmonic ideas all over numerous online video calls. Many of us Jazzers became self-taught mixers, and our CCA sessions that once revolved around fostering face-to-face chemistry and camaraderie turned into hours spent splicing, panning and equalising our instrumental tracks.
Though it was tedious and gruelling at times, our recording process polished our musicianship in ways that transcend the boundaries of traditional music performance, from having to follow the annoying tick-tock of a metronome for recordings to playing without physical or expressional cues from other bandmates. Seeing how much we have grown and evolved as Jazzers over these short few months made all our efforts so much more worthwhile. Evidently, in jazz, what we do isn’t limited to merely playing an instrument. We adapt, not just musically, but to the things happening around us too.
So, what should you expect?
Our regular CCA sessions are held on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:30pm to 5:30pm in our small, homey jazz studio. During these cozy afternoon sessions, we practise for upcoming performances, or simply jam our hearts out and inspire one another in our process of music-making. Every once in a while, we invite our esteemed instructors down for quality checks, to provide us with professional guidance and to further hone our technical and band skills. Most of the time we just vibe…yeah. . . . . . v i b e.
Outside of the studio, we perform at events, ranging from National Day Celebrations (check out our stay-at-home version on our IGTV! @rafflesjazz) to Teacher’s day and Batch Night, sharing the music we make and spreading our love for jazz to the rest of the student body. In addition, we have our self-organised annual May Concert and TSD performances, where we sit center-stage, and play our jazz standards for all to enjoy. Want a better glimpse into what we do? Check out our 14-track album, self-produced and performed from the comfort of our homes, at tinyurl.com/amourteslagdrive too!
If you’ve read everything to this point, congrats! You’ve almost reached destination JazzTM. Here are a few more things you can do to get there: have a listen to jazz standards like “Autumn Leaves”, “Blue Bossa”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Tea for Two”, and “Isn’t She Lovely”.
Being the only jazz club you’ll find amongst all the JCs in Singapore, joining Raffles Jazz will definitely bring you for a one-of-a-kind experience—one you won’t forget. You’ll learn that there really isn’t such a thing as a ‘mistake’ in jazz, as Miles Davis perfectly put it, “There are no wrong notes in jazz: only notes in the wrong places”. You can therefore safely conclude that joining us can’t be a mistake either.
If you’re interested in joining us,
JAZZ do it ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)