By Don Heckman
The room was filled with an enthusiastic crowd at Catalina Bar & Grill Friday night for the 9th Annual Filipino American Jazz & World Music Festival. And with good reason. A long sequence of performances in the Festival once again underscored both the quality and the quantity of first rate Filipino and Filipino-American musicians.
Many were unfamiliar to the non-Filipino members of the audience. But by the time the music wound to a close with a rendering of the Filipino national anthem, in which most of the participants joined Charmaine Clamor — singer and founder of the Festival — on stage for a climactic ending, any doubts about the quality of Filipino jazz artists had been thoroughly dismissed.
There were plenty of memorable performances. Among the highlights:’
– Singer Angela Vicente, singing the classic Duke Ellington standard “In A Mellow Tone” started with a properly laid back mellowness. But she soon shifted rhythmic gears into high speed scatting, improvising with the articulate, swinging expressiveness of a jazz instrumentalist. Although she’s not familiar to American jazz audiences, Vicente is a first rate candidate for a jazz album to bring wider attention to her impressive skills.
– The unusual band, Vanishing Tribe, was led by pianist Winston Raval. Mixing jazz textures and rhythms with the occasional tonal textures of Filipino instruments, the group made a convincing case for the blending of mainstream jazz with the fascinating sounds of rarely heard traditional instruments.
– Baritone saxophonist Edison Patrick Gregory Salvador demonstrated an impressive ability to balance his saxophone excursions with appealing vocals.
– And tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Saxophone competition, revealed all the reasons why he has become one of the jazz world’s compelling new arrivals.
Call it an intriguing display of the fascinating results that can be produced by an interfacing of jazz and traditional musics. And give credit to Charmaine Clamor for leading the way in the development of what she calls Jazzipino music. If there was any flaw in the program, it was the absence of a full set by the gifted Clamor. One looks forward to hearing her again in a full evening of her fascinating jazz talents.
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Photos by Faith Frenz.