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HK Magazine Archive

Sam Ferrer Says Jazz Can Fill Hong Kong's Void

The city's own 20-piece acid jazz outfit Shaolin Fez plays an eclectic blend of genres. The group will be making the rounds at Clockenflap this weekend and we talk to the band leader.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 November, 2015, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:53pm

How would you describe your sound to someone new to it? Symphonic rock, with a touch of jazz. We use French Horns instead of saxophone to front our brass, and together with the strings, it gives a broad, "grand" sound that has gone over very well.

How does the Hong Kong context play into your music? We created this band to fill a total void in this city's live music scene: large instrumentation with sophisticated arrangements that only professional musicians could pull off. Such ambitious projects exist in New York and London, and it had been long overdue that someone attempt it in Hong Kong.

With so many members, is it ever hard to keep track of each other and who's playing what? Absolutely. We're using 14 players for Clockenflap, and as the band-leader, I'm essentially conducting and playing the bass at the same time. It's intense.

Best gig played? City Hall, summer of 2014. I had always envisioned this group as a "concert hall ensemble" rather than a bar band, and when we finally got to play in an actual concert hall everything felt exactly as it was meant to be, and the performance of the musicians went up another level as a result.

And worst gig? None... (fingers crossed!)

Dream collaboration? Our singer, Jennifer Palor, is probably the greatest voice in Hong Kong. She puts the Canto-pop artists to shame. It wouldn't be easy to go to a lesser singer.

Where is the band's favorite hangout? Aside from our HK Philharmonic players, we use jazz pros who can often be found at Orange Peel or Peel Fresco. That's where I go to chase them down anyway.

One surprising thing that fans won't know about Shaolin Fez? Our CD features the same cello (played by Richard Bamping) that was used to record the famous cello line for "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles.