The Singapore Jazz Festival

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At the Main Stage
As Jeremy Monteiro, Artistic Director of the Singapore International Festival, the Master of Ceremony said, why not make a Jazz concert as big as any rock concert. And they did. Of the three nights and one afternoon concerts, the main stage at the convention center was packed. The Friday and Saturday night concerts were sold out, and the Sunday afternoon and evening concerts were at ninety-percent capacity. I am not talking about a big room. I am talking about a huge auditorium which we had to go up to the sixth level of the convention center via three different escalators and another flight of stairs (there were two more flight of stairs behind us) inside the auditorium. My guess is that the place held maybe three thousand people at each sitting. Two huge TV screens on both side of the stage helped with the close up views of the musicians. By the way, CNN was the official international broadcaster, MediaCorp was the sponsoring radio station, Arts Central was the sponsoring TV station and CSP Production was the technical producer. The whole event was supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Ernie Watts and the Thomson Big BandThe first concert of Friday, May 18, the Big Band night, started with the Tompson Jazz Band backing Ernie Watts (photo at left). Unfortunately, the program didn't list the band member or its leader, and there was no way I could catch their names and spell them just from the announcement. I noticed that there was a lady alto saxophonist and a lady tenor saxophonist among the band members. The sound of the band was warm, cohesive, balanced, and thick. Ernie Watts (photo below), though very popular in the States, has been absent in our area, performed brilliantly with the swing band. He moved through the melodies smoothly and effortlessly. He sounded relaxed and his techniques were impeccable. The trumpet solo from Tonaka Saichi (spelling can be incorrect) was impressive and shows accomplishment.Ernie Watts

Eldee Young - bassist and vocalistThen Eldee Young (photo at left) came to the stage as a vocalist. His baritone voice was clear and strong. He sounded younger than he looked. His articulation was great, and he manipulated his falsetto beautifully. He had a great smile on his face. He was relaxed and was having fun. He knows how to work his audience, he made them laugh and feel good. He scatted, he improvised, he changed "New York" in "New York, New York" to "Singapore," and made it fit. Then Ernie Watts joined the band again, walking toward the stage continuing with "New York, New York" with a free improvisation form, then skillfully slid into "Parker's Mood," with just the bass and drums accompanying him. Quietly, the brass joined in. Watt's (photo below) soulful melody was dotted with fast clean notes, trading fours with the drummer who creatively matched the challenge. Eldee Young joined in, this time with his bass, scatted along while changing the tune to "Bye Bye Black Bird" and winning the audience approval.

Ron Stout on trumpetThe Woody Herman Orchestra was led by Frank Tiberi, who also plays the clarinet and saxophone. They played "It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing," and "Four Brothers." Ron Stout (pictured at right), whom we met when he played with Dan St. Marseille in San Francisco back in 1992. He was good then, he is better now. His solo on "Body and Soul," was beautiful. Instead of a piercing sound, he made the trumpet sound like a flügelhorn. It was warm with no sharp edges. Then they were joined by their guest vocalist Vanessa Rubin (photo below), who has a strong and versatile voice, fluidly singing pieces like "I'm Beginning To See the Light, "Time for Love." By that time, it was time for bed, but before we went back to the hotel, we stopped by the other stages and caught glimpses of the regional musicians whom I mentioned before.A Double Shot of Vanessa Rubin

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