The Fifth Manila Jazz Festival

(A declaration of interest: I am related to an employee of one of the presenters of this event.)

I was late for the Fifth Manila Jazz Festival. My parents, one of whom is a fan of classic jazz, came at around six-thirty to a much emptier Sofitel Sunset Pavillion and ended up eating expensive sandwiches. They were turned off by the sudden decision of the Radioactive Sago Project to play one of their less jazzy and more rock-like numbers.
But in my case, I was much luckier. I arrived with a friend to a much more crowded place (about a thousand people!) and numbers that were far more decent. The first band we heard was a group called Sino Sikat?, a pun on the name of their sultry lead singer. They managed to strike the right starting note for us, with their wonderfully soothing and sexy numbers. (Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for Vernie Varga, which would have been a performance on a far more sultry note.) The band was good, but against the next few performances, they seemed a bit underwhelming.
So on stage came the Jewelmer Jazz Band. Readers of my other blog may remember that I wrote about them in the context of the School of Humanities launch a year ago. They were the best band then, and tonight, I was not disillusioned about their talent. They began by playing an extended blues number, with each member of their brass section and their keyboard player doing solos. Then they played a number which I first heard last year, at the Fiesta Latina in Ateneo, from the UST Jazz Ensemble (another performer tonight which I could not get to see).
The last group whose performance I got to see in full was a visiting French band, consisting of teenagers who were very good jazz players. Thomas Enhco (he’s Jewish—unscramble his name to see why) and the Jazz Angels are a four-man ensemble with Thomas doing double-duty as a piano and jazz violin player. Now this betrays the myth, which I hope will be shattered here more often, that musically inclined kids are forming nothing more than bands that play emo rock sound-alikes.
They blew me away. Their first number was played at a breathtaking tempo, with the pianist doing the theme and improvisation at a speed I had not heard live in my entire life. Then they brought on Thomas’s brother Nicholas, a trumpet player, and he played his trumpet with gusto and force seeping out, which my parents attribute to his youth. And their final number, in what my friend called a classic jazz tradition, featured the drummer doing a three-minute tour de force.
So it was that our brief stay at the festival ended. We left, because we were tired and I had things to do today, to the music of the Brass Monkeys. They are a local swing band. Which I hope some people in my university (hint! hint!) will take as a cue to prepare for next year’s festival.
By the way, if Maan is reading this, here are some pictures someone else got from the festival. No Jazz Angel photos, though.
I hope I could go next year and stay longer. And convince myself that there is nothing like what Wynton Marsalis calls “the only American form of classical music,” which I do think is very much the world’s now.

Edit: There is a review of the Jazz Festival by Pocholo Concepcion, but unfortunately unavailable online. It’s only on print, in the Monday edition of the Inquirer.


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