One electrifying eveningBy Pinky M. Aseron
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It was not like any of your run-of-the-mill, easy-does-it Sundays … far from it.
Instead of spending over an hour listening to some laid-back jazz classics—the kind played on the radio on lazy weekends—we were treated to one highly charged, electrifying evening with the West Coast jazz act Jeff Lorber Fusion.
This proved to be another concert coup for the hardworking Philippine International Jazzfest (PIJazzfest) group led by the husband-and-wife team of Sandra and Jun Viray, bringing the Philadelphia-born jazz fusion keyboardist to Manila for the very first time.
As luck would have it, the gig came on the heels of an Asian tour that Lorber, together with saxophonist Eric Marienthal, bass player Nate Philips and former Earth, Wind and Fire drummer Sonny Emory had been busy with.
The audience was a comfortable mix of audiophiles and musicians, with some notable personalities like United States Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr., former Makati Business Club executive director Guillermo M. Luz, ANC news anchor Boyet Sison, jazz singer Richard Merk and homegrown jazz fusion icon Boy Katindig.
The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, amid the elegant confines of the Mandarin Oriental Ballroom, where cocktails were served well until the show started. The program flow was straight-ahead, no-frills, and got off to a good start. Jerome Rico, 2008 Awit Awardee for best instrumental performer, laid out some cool, crisp licks on his Epiphone Broadway guitar to spice up his bop-ish take on Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” as well as the Rodgers and Hart ballad “Blue Moon.” He capped off his set by channeling smooth jazz guitarist Tuck Andress and the latter’s take on Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”
The audience was just getting warmed up when Sinosikat?’s sultry lead vocalist Kat Agarrado oozed sex appeal as she took center stage and heated things up with a bluesy rendition of
“Route 66” and Etta James’ “At Last,” with Rico accompanying her on guitar.
Agarrado is all set to fly to Memphis, Tennessee, with her group Kat Magic Express to compete in the International Blues Challenge early next year. She admitted that although her vocal stylings were basically soul in orientation, she had lately been experimenting on blues, something she found quite challenging. She said singing the blues meant “digging from deep within one’s pain” to communicate through music.
The Kat Magic Express’ Memphis trip follows its first-place triumph in the recently concluded First Philippine National Blues Competition.
Shortly before the main act, show host Raul Banzon of the group Working Stiff obliged requests with a take on John Klemmer’s “Pure Love” on his saxophone, following it up with a version of The Rippingtons’ “Welcome to the St. James Club” on his electronic wind instrument.
Finally, the Jeff Lorber Fusion quartet strode onstage, immediately getting down to business with a highly charged repertoire consisting mostly of tunes from its recently released albums, as well as tracks from Lorber’s solo material.
Save for several tracks from the 2012 release “Galaxy”—like “Live Wire,” “Montserrat” and “Singavaja,” which more or less followed a standard melody—the quartet’s sound that night may well be defined as heavy on improvisation, more aggressive and more progressive. The style was free-wheeling.
There were absolutely no boundaries. Many in the audience observed the seeming deviation from Lorber’s trademark sound—that which was characterized by more funk, more regularity in rhythm and more melodic. While Lorber managed to squeeze in a few such numbers, including a local favorite entitled “Katherine,” most of the numbers on the playlist reflected the group’s “new sound,” including the band’s take on Wayne Shorter’s “Mysterious Traveler,” which Lorber recorded in 2010 with Eric Marienthal on sax, Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets) on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Individually, the Jeff Lorber Fusion gave it all—to cheers and roaring applause from the audience, allowing an encore (“Pixel,” 2010) after its set.
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