Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am


Next weekend is going to be busy for Ginger Kwan. On Friday the singer appears at the Joyce is Not Here Artists Bar & Cafe performing what she describes as 'an eclectic mix of acoustic jazz with Orlando Bonzi, an extremely talented musician from Brazil' as part of the Peel Jazz Festival. On Sunday, she and fellow vocalist Michelle Carrillo will perform 'a mix of smooth, acid and neo jazz' at the Peel Fresco Music Lounge.

In between, on Saturday night at Grappa's Cellar, she will present the latest in a series of tributes to pop artists who have created music jazz musicians also like to play.

These are staged by Kwan's production company, Jenger; the first was devoted to Stevie Wonder. Shows devoted to other Motown artists, and then to the Beatles, followed. All were well received.

The Sound of Motown Part II is a sequel to the first Motown show and will be 'completely different', Kwan says. 'Last time we did a lot of the hits, but Motown has many, many of those, and we couldn't cover all the artists, so this time we're trying to do some of the ones we weren't able to last time.'

Some Stevie Wonder tunes that were left on the shelf for the first Motown show, because the Wonder tribute was fairly recent, will be featured. And there will be more from the Supremes, who were also not strongly represented. 'There's also some Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves and even some Isley Brothers - the major artists from Motown before it lost the Motown sound. We're sticking to the 60s and 70s,' Kwan says.

Jennifer Palor, Kwan's partner in Jenger and co-lead vocalist at the previous shows, won't be participating this time, due to prior commitments in Singapore, but others in the four-voice line-up are Carrillo, Penny Salcedo and Howard McCrary, who is doubling as musical director.

'We have Rudi Balbuena on bass, and instead of two horns we have three with Michal Garcia on trumpet. Oliver Smith on alto and flute, and Jim Schneider on tenor, who I'm very happy to have on board because he's leading the horn section,' Kwan says. 'We also have a special guest, Kendy Villarin, who will also be singing.'

Completing the line-up are Jezrael Lucero on keyboards, Balu Casi on guitar, and Robbin Harris on drums. The show is envisaged as a one-time only performance, although the musicians are considering some private engagements; Kwan says she and Palor may look at a show combining elements of the original Motown programme with the sequel.

Kwan is also busy working with guitarist and songwriter Dan LaVelle on an album slated for a February release. 'I think I'm half way through but there's still a lot to follow up on. This album is made up of original music Dan LaVelle and I have worked on. Some he wrote, some we wrote together, and one or two I co-wrote with other musicians,' she says.

The Sound of Motown Part II will be performed at Grappa's Cellar on Saturday, starting at 9.30pm. Tickets are HK$288 in advance or HK$328 on the door, and include one drink. Advance tickets can be booked by calling 2521 2322 or e-mailing

Take Three

Three albums on which jazz musicians pay tribute to Motown.

Blue Note Salutes Motown (Blue Note, 1998): artists ranging from Dave Koz to Stanley Turrentine perform Motown favourites, in almost all cases to advantage, with particular standout tracks including Earl Klugh's insidious I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Dianne Reeves' subtle reinvention of The Tracks of My Tears, and Turrentine's exuberant Sir Duke.

A Jazz Tribute to Marvin Gaye (Sony, 1999): Gaye took full advantage of the skills of the jazz musicians who made up the Motown studio house band, and were collectively known as the Funk Brothers, with his groundbreaking 1971 album What's Going On? He also insisted on them getting credits Motown had previously denied. This tribute is therefore particularly appropriate. Ray Barretto, Grover Washington, Maceo Parker, Turrentine and Til Bronner are among the artists paying their respects.

Superstition: Songs in the Key of Jazz (ZYX Music, 2003): Stevie Wonder is the jazz musician's Motown favourite, and among those delving into the Wonder songbook here are Woody Herman with Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing, Ella Fitzgerald working her magic on You are the Sunshine of My Life, and Sonny Rollins taking on Isn't She Lovely.