UP jazz guitarist records with US legends
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Jazz guitarist-composer/arranger-music producer and former UP College of Music student Johnny Alegre made it big in the American music scene when he recorded the album titled 3, a trio-collaboration with ex-Quest members Ron McClure (bassist) and Billy Hart (drummer), both legends in the US jazz scene.

Alegre has performed and released albums in the UK under jazz record company Candid Records. He also performed in the US, where a write-up published by the Los Angeles Times compared his performance to those by Pat Metheny and Gabor Szabo.

“It was incredible to have played before a mixed crowd in Hollywood,” Alegre was quoted as saying. “Everyone was so appreciative and supportive.” He hopes the accolades he received for his US performance will pave the way for the US release of his albums.

Recorded in New York, 3 features nine tracks, with Alegre’s original compositions such as Wildflower, Offering, From Long Ago, theme from Humanfolk, and others performed by Alegre alongside McClure and Hart. Alegre launched the album last Sept. 1 at Strumms in Makati, his third album release and the first under MCA Music (Universal Music Group).

“Everything fell into place especially when I learned that Ron and Billy were available to record,” Alegre said. “Then MCA indicated that they are also willing to distribute and promote the album. Anybody who could help was there when needed.”

He calls 3 either his “rock-iest” or “un-jazziest” album because the tracks can be appreciated by fans of either music genre.

Alegre entered UP in 1974 as a BSHRA student while taking courses in Music, before shifting to the College of Music and studying composition from 1977 to 1981. He was a member of the UP Lab Jazz Band, which eventually became the UP Jazz Ensemble. He studied with jazz educator Dr. Joseph Howard, and participated in workshops conducted by musicologist-composer Erhard Karkoshka, guitarist Ike Isaacs, and composer-scholar Chou Wen-chung.

Alegre’s career as jazz musician and record producer spans over 20 years of the Philippine jazz and pop music history. In May 2002, he formed Manila’s premier jazz group, the Johnny Alegre Affinity, with bassist Colby de la Calzada, drummer Koko Bermejo, pianist Elhmir Siason, and saxophonist Tots Tolentino. The group’s first recorded work, Stones of Intramuros, written by Alegre, was included in the limited edition Philippine jazz anthology CD Adobo Jazz Vol. 1, which caught the attention of Candid Records. Subsequently, the self-titled album, Johnny Alegre AFFINITY, was released in the Philippines in 2005 and was re-released in the UK as Jazzhound, which led to two sold-out engagements in London’s Pizza Express Jazz Club with guest saxophonist Dimitri Vassilakis.

From 2006 to 2007, the Johnny Alegre Affinity worked on the ambitious album Eastern Skies, which features original compositions with big band and symphonic arrangements by orchestrator Ria Osorio and set to the backdrop of the Global Studio Orchestra conducted by Gerard Salonga. The album was released in 2008 by Candid Records (Philippines) as his response to the clamor for even more innovative music from Manila’s jazz superband.   — Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

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