Yesterday’s lunchtime concert at the Asian Civilisations Museum was put up by the students of Dr Tony Makarome from the Young Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM) at the National University of Singapore.
The first thing that struck me was the Steinway concert grand was not in its usual place! Instead it was a green Bosendorfer baby grand.
Anyway, I thought to myself: it’s fine, because it was going to be a jazz performance and I could give more attention to the other instruments. Was I right! And it was by far the most enjoyable of such concerts that I’ve attended over the years.
For the first time in my memory, there was no female student in the ensemble. It was perhaps only the second time that YSTCM faculty member Dr Makarome lent his vocals to the performance. It was the third time I saw visually-impaired Steven Tanus perform but it was the first time I saw him on three other instruments (violin, drums and percussion) besides the piano (his major). There were two other pianists for this performance, one of whom is Gabriel Hoe (who also played the trumpet, and without music score for one piece), who is really good at improvisation and has a really solid technique.
The pieces played range from
- So Nice by Marcos Valle & Paulo Sergio Valle (Brazilians, b.1943; b.1940), a bossa nova number that featured the oboe and the guitar. I was puzzled by the accomplishment of the oboeist, a Malay, since I had been told by a Muslim friend that there aren’t any professional Muslim wind players because they cannot practise during the fasting month of Ramadan as they are not even allowed to swallow their saliva!
- to Out of Nowhere by Johnny Green & Edward Heyman (Americans, 1908-1989; 1907-1981) featuring the French Horn (which is very unusual in a jazz band) and the piano
- to Summertime by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin (Americans, 1898-1937; 1896-1983) featuring the oboe and trumpet
- to Beyond the Sea (La Mer) by Charles Trenet, Albert Lasry & Jack Lawrence (French, 1913-2001; French, 1903-1975; American, 1912-2009). This song, popularised by Bobby Darin and one of my all-time favourites, is when Dr Makarome (a stelwart of the Singapore jazz scene) sang!
- to I’ll Remember April by Patricia Johnston, Don Raye & Gene De Paul (Americans, 1922-1953; 1919-1988, 1909-1985) in a special arrangement at a quick tempo with the French horn, guitar and piano taking centrestage. This is the piece in which Gabriel was most impressive.
- to Moon River by Henry Mancini (American, 1924-1994). Dr Makarome joked that Steven was ‘forced to try out’ the violin for this piece because it is ‘the easiest instrument in the world’; what followed immediately after (even before the performance commenced) was that one of the violin strings just snapped and broke! Dr Makarome had to fix the broken string by’ tying it up’ and in the meantime, Gabriel improvised on the piano, where he impressed again. When the problem was ‘fixed’, a conversation ensued between the violin and the piano. I marveled at Steven’s skill: he has played the violin for less than a semester yet was much, much better than my one-year ‘affair’ with it.
- to Night and Day by Cole Porter (American, 1891-1964) featuring the violin and trumpet
- to Misty by Erroll Garner (American, 1923-1977); where the melody must have been like a child’s play to the very competent, classically-trained pianist and the trumpeter who played without score (the only person to do so other than Dr Makarome who of course played his Double Bass without score throughout)
- to Sweet Georgia Brown by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard & Kenneth Casey (Americans, 1891-1943; 1897-1962; 1899-1965), the finale that had everyone playing.
There were supposed to be three more songs in the set list (which was a graded performance in the jazz module for the students), but then time ran out because of the earlier mishap with the violin. I hope to hear these in their next performance (Fly Me To The Moon by Bart Howard, Watermelon by Herbie Hancock and Speak Low by Kurt Weill & Ogden Nash).