Arts preview: a sound with no boundaries
This is a busy time for Shaolin Fez leader Sam Ferrer. The composer and arranger, whose regular job is as double bassist with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, is about to become a father for the first time, is engaged in shooting his band's first professionally produced video, and is working on new arrangements for the next Shaolin Fez gig at the end of August.
"Our previous videos were really just studio clips linked together, so this is really our first legit music video," Ferrer says.
"This time it's being produced and directed by someone else - Terri Oliver, along with executive producer Nicholas Sallnow-Smith. Oliver has a lot of production experience in Canada. One reason we needed to go professional this time was that the video is for the title track of our album, Calm Your Storm. We needed to do something different, and to make more out of the production."
Shaolin Fez are an unusual element in Hong Kong's music scene, and difficult to categorise. "It's neither classical nor jazz, although those influences are there," says Ferrer. "I say we're acid jazz, R'n'B and funk, but acid jazz is a very loose term. To me it just means that it has jazz elements over more popular grooves."
The band came into being three years ago when Ferrer, who had some experience in arranging jazz as well as his classical musician's skills, decided he would like to perform different music in venues other than classical concert halls. "I recruited some of my classical music colleagues and approached some of the best jazz musicians in town, such as singer Jennifer Palor, and said 'Let's collaborate on something'," he says.
Since he and Palor began talking about the project, the band has recorded one CD, produced four music videos which can be seen on its website or on YouTube, and played well received gigs, at Grappa's Cellar and the Fringe Club, among other venues.
The line-up varies from gig to gig, but there are usually about a dozen players.
"Our last show at Grappa's was packed out, and went very well," says Ferrer. "I think people are excited about a large group that is doing something original and different."
The last few shows have featured both original material and Ferrer's arrangements of music from the James Bond movies, but the next show they will present a different repertoire.
"We are calling it 'A Night of Premieres' and what we're going to do is premiere our new music video and several original songs," says Ferrer.
"Instead of the James Bond stuff, we're going to feature the music of Amy Winehouse and Peter Gabriel. I'm also creating a Philip Glass-style arrangement of a tune from Disney's The Lion King, which is probably the hardest thing we've done. That should go over quite well. For Peter Gabriel, we're going to do his music from The Last Temptation of Christ."
The two-hour show with an intermission will feature Palor on vocals, as usual, as well as guest soul singer Sybil Thomas and guest rock guitarist Andrew Cheung.
BeatingHeart, 8/F Cheung Fat Building, 7-9 Hill Road, Shek Tong Tsui, August 30, 9.30pm, HK$160 (advance) from ticketflap.com or HK$200 (on the door)