A shame that numbers for the The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre’s (KLPAC) Symphonic Swing this Sunday afternoon was rather low. Less than half of the available seats were taken up.
A shame because it was such a foot-tapping, finger-snapping, head-bopping event.
The KLPAC Orchestra in its inaugural swing jazz performance under the direction of its new conductor Lee Kok Leong, even boasted three established singers – Junji Defino, Ida Mariana and Peter Ong – as well as KLPAC’s artistic director, Joe Hasham, who served as emcee for the event.
Yes, Joe on stage. The second time within weeks.
And he was an engaging compere. As comfortable in the role as any of us in a favorite t-shirt, he talked with the audience, paid homage to a few local celebs, and also responded to a call from a young boy – knee-high to a grasshopper – who shouted out ‘Uncle Joe’
At the start of each piece, Joe would introduce the tune with a little history. Composer’s name, publication year, who made it famous, etc. There was some banter, because it was International Pianist Day. Yes, you can see the ‘pianist’-envy jokes coming.
Joe teased enough. After Junji’s first song, he slipped in a request that she sing Happy Birthday to her mother in public. (Hope Warner Music isn’t reading this.)
It was clear Junji weighed the options – to sing or not to sing? Her eyes going from him to the audience, back and forth. When Joe insisted, Junji in her high heels gingerly climbed up the stairs. When she got to one seat before her mother’s, she shooed whoever was sitting there and sang.
It was a spontaneous and heartfelt moment that Joe initiated and which Junji reluctantly acquiesced because she was afraid that tears would run her makeup, although it was magical hearing her sing to her own mother.
The concert allowed the woodwind and brass section to shine more.
Collectively, the strings, which often are in the spotlight, sat back a little to give soloists Brian Choong (flute), Kenny Lim (clarinet), Goh Kent Lee (saxophone), Lee Chee Yean (trombone), Farizal Zulkafeley (drums), Yau Yan Zhe (trumpet) and Lim Zi Ru (piano) their time in the brighter light.
Yu Li arranged the musical selections in the program made up of popular tunes such as “In the Mood”, “Sunny”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Beyond the Sea” and others. These choices made the swing concert both safe and not so. Safe because the audience would know these hits; not so safe because the audience would have expectations.
It was a fun afternoon with little to fault. The folks around me were immersed – they clapped in tandem with the singer when solicited. Though seated, their feet were dancing.
The musicians had fun – they snapped their fingers, they bopped to the beat, they swayed to the music.
The singers were relaxed and loose, chatting with Joe and the audience, singing also with their hearts.
And Joe, like a chef, stirred with his words the orchestra, the singers and the audience into an enjoyable afternoon of symphonic swing.
Oh. Sean Ghazi, together with a couple of other singers who were in the audience, was dragged into the encore. It was that kind of fun, loose afternoon on the swing.