You can always rely on Shaolin Fez for an eclectic evening. "Shaolin Paradiso", their performance tomorrow at City Hall, is part of the Hong Kong Summer Jazz Festival, but it features the film music of two Italian contemporary classical composers, and guests Soler, the twin brothers rock duo.
"The organisers kind of broke with their own tradition and said 'You can do the whole show and basically play what you like'," says Shaolin Fez leader and bassist Sam Ferrer. "I've always had an interest in cinematic music and more acoustic music, but this time we're really pushing that a lot further. In the past we've had a touch of it in our shows, but this time it's all out there in the first half of the programme."
Shaolin Fez have a fluid line-up, but many of the core players come from the Hong Kong Philharmonic, among them Ferrer himself, French horn players Russell Bonifede and Marc Gelfo, Chris Moyse on trumpet, as well as violinists Zhao Yingna and Anders Hui.
Shaolin Fez "tend to have a high turnover of strings, but it's always from the same pool of players who come and go", Ferrer says.
"Our brass has always been pretty consistent. The biggest difference in this show is … new percussionist Floro Sernande, who doubles on jazz flute. That's very fun and this show is going to feature a lot more flute. Other returning players are local rhythm musicians Almond Yeung on drums, Ricky Wong on keyboards, Andrew Cheung on guitar, Yanice Tsang on jazz violin, Ben Pelletier on trombone, and of course Jennifer Palor as vocalist."
The emphasis on film music comes from the involvement of Soler twins Julio and Dino Acconci, who are part Italian. Ferrer is keen to perform his arrangement of a song, titled Cucurrucucu Paloma, sung by Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso in the 2002 Pedro Almodovar film, Talk to Her. Originally a traditional Mexican tune, the song has also featured in other films. "I asked Dino if he could sing in Spanish and he said, 'Yeah, sure', so we met up and we talked about it. The more we talked the bigger it became," Ferrer says. "It turned into something with both him and his brother Julio, so a Soler thing, and we came up with a bit more of an Italian theme."
Ferrer is an admirer of Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota, both Italians best known as composers of music for the cinema although they maintained classical careers.
So the concert will open with the first of Ferrer's two Morricone suites, this one based on the main theme and love theme from Cinema Paradiso. In addition to the second Morricone suite, Cucurrucucu (as Ferrer abbreviates the title) and some original Ferrer compositions, a highlight of the first half of the programme is likely to be one of Rota's best-known themes. "I'm going to play a double bass solo on The Godfather, an arrangement of mine for bass and flute," says Ferrer.
The Soler brothers will feature on seven of the 17 pieces; the rest are instrumental works or feature lead vocals from Palor.
"Normally when we have guests they do maybe two songs with us, but in this case it's more involved, and I think the audience will appreciate that," Ferrer says.
"We're really exploring the cinematic side much more in the first half of the show. In the second half we're going back to some of our James Bond tunes and a lot of original stuff as well - kind of in that 'acid house' style."
Ferrer's contemporary classical leanings can also be discerned in the arrangement of one of the show's several unlikely selections: He Lives in You, from the musical version of The Lion King.
"Originally it's more of a Broadway song but the way we do it I wrote a kind of Philip Glass introduction to the song. It has an odd meter and is quite minimalistic, so it's a different approach."
Ferrer is enthusiastic about the partnership with Soler, of whom relatively little has been heard in Hong Kong for some time.
"They're at an interesting phase of their career, kind of reinventing themselves. I've heard a single they've recorded in English and it's a really fantastic rock song.
"They are very talented brothers."
Shaolin Paradiso , tomorrow, 7.30pm, City Hall Theatre, HK$150, HK$200, HK$250 Urbtix. Inquiries: 3761 6661