All this jazz
KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson () - October 6, 2008 - 12:00am

We have to hand it to Richie Quirino, who need not bask much longer in the shadow of his esteemed father, National Artist for Historical Literature Carlos Quirino.

Apart from being an intense love poet (oops, we should really keep that private), Richie has determinedly pursued his visceral cum scholarly interest in Philippine jazz.

In 2004 he authored/edited Pinoy Jazz Traditions (Anvil Publishing), which won a National Book Award. Comes now the sequel, Mabuhay Jazz; Jazz in Postwar Philippines (also released by Anvil, but found only in PowerBooks).

The back-cover blurb notes: “Steeped in the researcher’s discipline of dogged and relentless pursuit of rare documents, memorabilia, interviews, photos, and audio/visual recordings, Richie has amassed a sizable archive from which he has drawn material to create this volume....”

It’s comprised of three sections: “From Roots to Routes”; “The Pinoy Jazz Photo Chest”; and “One-on-One Interviews.” The first and main text section begins with “Where Filipino-American Jazz was Born” (in Stockton, California) and courses through “Wartime Black and Blues,” “Jazz Booms After the War,” and on to Latin Music Fever, 1950s jazz, “Jazz at Cafe Indonesia,” “Bobby Enriquez — the Wildman from Dumaguete,” “The Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity Jazz Concerts,” the Executives Band, “Overseas Exodus of Filipino Musicians,” and ends with “A view from the outside by a ‘Naturalized Asian’.”

That last is Britisher Nick Demuth, who recalls how Hong Kong in the late ’40s and ’50s already teemed with Filipino musicians and bands, from banjo player and bandleader Tony Carpio to alto sax/clarinet player and bandleader Andy Hidalgo, sax player Nick Domingo, pianist Celso Carrillo, and much later, singer Annie Brazil. By the ’60s in Tokyo, it was Pinoy baritone Bimbo Danao who held court, and Demuth came to serve as his musical director.

What Quirino has put together is a veritable history book that harkens back to an era when the Pinoy was king of jazz in the region and a darling prince in the West, mainly in California. The Foreword is provided by Angel Matias Peña, and the Introduction by Gus Vibal, who calls Richie a “conjurer.”

The author-editor has himself been a performing jazz artist, as a top-class drummer. Among the founders of Jazzphil, Richie developed the group’s website (www.jazzsociety.phil) with Collis H. Davis as Web master. Together with Gus Lagman, they produced a 60-minute video docu, Pinoy Jazz: The Story of Jazz in the Philippines, which has been shown worldwide on The Filipino Channel. A conjurer Richie is, indeed.

The book’s middle section displays 40 pages of vintage photos, cartoons and memorabilia, from the 1920s to the present. Section 3 features jazz musicians in their own speak, voicing out improvisatory takes on their gifts, careers, hardships, and all the sublime fun of playing jazz. Among the artists interviewed are Charmaine Clamor, Mon David, Edmund Fortuno, Marlene del Rosario, Gerard Salonga, Sandra Lim Viray, and Aya M. Yuson.

Most cheeky is the last, who wraps up his “innerview” with what may pass for words of antic wisdom:

“Everyone knows something about the what. Most know a bit about the how. Some know about the who’s. A few know about the when. But one thing almost no one talks about is the why. I believe that there is only one why worth pursuing. And that is: Share the gift, share the love.

“There are those who do it for money. I understand that. Livelihood is important. Some do it for fame, adulation, notoriety, glamour... to make themselves feel special, important, like Da Bomb. I don’t understand that. It’s strange and foolhardy.

“All we are are his vessels. Conduits for The Holy Spirit. God’s Synapses. The essence of business is making a profit. The essence of music is sharing the bounty. Share the gift, share the love. To God be all honor and glory.”

Hmm. Spoken like an Atenean who moved on to UP and dropped out to face the wonderful music, heh heh.

As a backgrounder, Richie describes this interviewee as “a hungry young lion who will emerge as a real heavyweight with the passing of time.... Aya is a sensitive, wide-eyed monster of a guitarist and will go the whole nine yards to live his dream.... Jazz is the name of his game and improvisation is at the heart of it. Expect to see and hear more from him!”

Well, this son of mine, at 34, recently had a CD album produced and released by Candid Records Philippines. Titled “Angelsong,” it had its media launch a couple of weekends ago at Ten-O2, the jazz bar ran by the precious Skarlet, a.k.a Myra Ruaro. While the official CD copies didn’t make it on time, the full gig attracted quite a crowd, and as happenstance would have it, the eminent Mon David was around to join the jam session after the band had treated the audience to renditions of the album’s 12 songs, all composed and written by lead artist Aya. 

Kinda awkward of this dad to praise the firstborn to high heavens, so here’s sharing Candid’s promotional spin on him:

“Guitarist Aya Yuson is a mercurial genius who was once described in print as ‘the best guitarist of his generation and perhaps beyond.’ After a decade spent playing with various showbands, he became part of the groundbreaking, award-winning group WDOUJI (Witch Doctors of Underground Jazz Improvisation), with whom he recorded two acclaimed albums, ‘Ground Zero’ and ‘Zen & The Art of Dressmaking.’ The album ‘Ground Zero’ won two Katha Awards in 2002 — Best Jazz Album of the Year and Best Instrumental Performance by a Group.

“... WDOUJI disbanded. Aya went on to play in various settings with singers such as Arthur Manuntag, Skarlet, Girl Valencia, Kat Agarrado and Judith Alegarbes (of Parliament Syndicate).

“In 2004, Aya released an independent, self-funded album called ‘Aya Yuson: Solo’ (where he) demonstrated his guitar wizardry in the very challenging solo guitar setting.... His playing was lauded in The Philippine STAR as being a virtuosic juggling act of ‘knuckle-busting chord changes, blindingly fast single note runs, walking bass lines — all played with a steady groove.’”

Now, that wasn’t me who wrote that for this paper. I wouldn’t know knuckle-busters unless I felt them on my jaw. But I have a good feeling about this album, which features Aya as a songwriter. The fact that the great sax player Tots Tolentino boosts at least five tracks quickly establishes it as a CD of note.

Old buddies Simon Tan on bass and Alex Fidel on drums also get their wondrous licks in on the instrumental tunes, while five tracks feature lovely vocals from the inimitable Arthur Manuntag (here doing a naughty novelty number, Big Bird, that will surely gain a lot of playing time) and divas Skarlet, Aileen Balon and Yosha Honasan — all of angelsong voices that capitalize on catchy, downright memorable melodies such as those of Used to be Our Moon, Fooled and Fooled Again, Phoenix Reborn, I Still Believe, and a singular, no-miss classic, in Filipino: Diwa ng Babae.

Okay, ’nuf said, but that the sense of the father beats proudly on this one, as positive sensing.  

Good jazz, like luck, must come in threes. And so, lastly, here’s plugging a “once-in-a-lifetime event” jazz lovers can’t miss. At 9 p.m. on Oct. 16, the highly-acclaimed John Scofield & Joe Lovano Quartet performs at the Rockwell Tent, brought in by the indefatigable P.I. Jazz & Arts Festival Foundation led by Sandra Lim Viray.

From P.I. Jazz’s media kit: “Scofield is one of the ‘Big 3’ in jazz guitar, along with Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, while Lovano is a jazz legend on saxophone and comes highly recommended by our very own sax superstar Tots Tolentino. They are two of the most excellent jazz artists in the world today. Furthermore, as jazz educators, they will be allowing ticketed students and musicians the exclusive privilege of attending their sound check/rehearsal (on Oct. 16 at 4 p. m.) with a Q & A to follow afterwards. Pre-registration is recommended.”

Scofield is noted as a masterful jazz improviser whose music generally falls somewhere between post-bop, funk edged jazz, and R&B. He recorded with Charles Mingus, and was part of the Gary Burton quartet. He also toured and recorded with Miles Davis as well as Herbie Hancock, and collaborated or played with Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, and other jazz legends. 

Of Joe Lovano, The New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff once wrote: “It’s fair to say that he’s one of the greatest musicians in jazz history.” Recent distinctions include the 2004 NY Times’ Jazz Album Of The Year for I’m All For You; Down Beat Critics’ & Readers’ Polls Winner as Tenor Saxophonist of the Year in 2005; and a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Recording — Streams of Expression.”

Joining these icons for their Manila gig are Matt Penman on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. Tickets for free seating are priced at P1,250. Call or SMS Sandra at 0915-4979909 or Egay at 0918-6432388.

ARTHUR MANUNTAG AYA CHARLES MINGUS GROUND ZERO JAZZ LSQUO MON DAVID RICHIE
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