Hong Kong returns to era of multi-night jazz residencies with EFG Jazznote Club Festival

Jeremy Monteiro, Eugene Pao and some of Asia’s best talent coming to Hong Kong to play at Orange Peel in Lan Kwai Fong

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 12:00pm

Hong Kong gets more visits from international jazz artists than is sometimes supposed – but the guests usually don’t stay for long.

Back in the 1990s heyday of the Lan Kwai Fong Jazz Club, three or four noteworthy performers came through town every month and usually settled in for five-night residencies. Many fans went along on more than one evening, allowing a rapport to develop between artist and audience.

Since the club closed, visiting jazz artists have usually come for just one public performance, or at most two. That may change if an upcoming residency at Orange Peel, structured as a mini jazz festival with different guest artists on different nights, plays to good houses.

The catalyst and principal artist for the EFG Jazznote Club Festival at Orange Peel is Singapore-based pianist and composer Jeremy Monteiro, who in line with usual practice was originally planning to be here for only one show.

“I was supposed to do a concert with Eugene Pao in one of the concert halls in Hong Kong in support of our duo album project, but I couldn’t find a venue,” Monteiro explains. “We could have played in Sha Tin, but it wouldn’t have suited the sponsors [EFG Bank] to be so far from the centre of town, so I asked them if I could use the budget for a club run instead.”

The Orange Peel music lounge was available, and serendipitously Monteiro had musician friends visiting him in Singapore who were willing to join him on a trip up here.

“I had all these musicians playing with me at the Singapore Jazz Festival and I thought it would be great to extend their stay and come and do something in Hong Kong,” he says.

The guest artists are Thai drummer Hong Chanutr Techatananan, a leading light of the Bangkok jazz scene who Monteiro rates as one of the best drummers in Asia; German bassist Rudi Engel from the Ernie Watts Quartet; British singer Tina May; Singapore-based singer Alemay Fernandez; and of course guitarist Pao, who will be playing with Monteiro for one night in a duo format, and for two in a jointly led organ trio.

“It’s three different shows, over five nights,” Monteiro explains. “The first two nights [Tuesday and Wednesday March 8 and 9] will be with Tina May guesting with my piano trio, with Techatananan on drums and Rudi Engel on bass. Rudi and I play together a lot when I’m in Europe, and with Ernie Watts. We go back about four or five years. We’ve done a lot of bigger band work, so it will be nice to explore the possibilities of the trio,” he says.

May is a multiple award-winning singer who has worked with many of the leading names in British jazz.

“I was appearing in London and I asked [British saxophonist] Alan Barnes to recommend a singer to me. He very strongly recommended Tina May. That worked very well, then I saw her again in Shanghai, and asked her to come out for our Christmas tribute to Frank Sinatra in Singapore last year, then again for the Singapore Jazz Festival, and now to Hong Kong,” says Monteiro.

The third night, March 10, will feature Monteiro, again on piano, and Pao on acoustic and electric guitar performing a set based on their current album, To Paris With Love, on which Alemay Fernandez is a guest vocalist.

Monteiro and Pao have performed together in various different band line-ups over many years on CD and in concert, but the new album is their first without a rhythm section.

Fernandez, who Monteiro describes as “a very nice soul/blues kind of singer” brought in to give the album a little “spice”, will join the duo for a couple of tunes, and will be more prominently featured on the final two nights , March 11 and 12, when the band leader will switch from piano to organ with Techatananan back behind his drums, and Pao returning on guitar.

It promises to be a very interesting residency to follow. Let’s hope it sells enough tickets to encourage Orange Peel to repeat the idea with other artists.

EFG Jazznote Club Festival, Orange Peel, 2/F Ho Lee Commercial Building, 38-44 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Mar 8-12, from 9.30pm, HK$250 (Mar 8), HK$300 (Mar 9-10), HK$350 (Mar 11-12), ticketflap.com. Inquiries: 2812 7177