HK Magazine Archive

Sam Ferrer Unplugs With Acid Jazz for Charity

The double-bassist is part of the unconventional Shaolin Fez side project with a few members of the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 11:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 5:05pm

So, what is Shaolin Fez? The band is considered a bit of a spin-off from the Hong Kong Philharmonic. I conceived of it in part because of the pop concerts that we were doing at the Philharmonic. Some of the music, like our James Bond covers, were going over so well that I thought it would be great to get a small group together and get some of the music out to the clubs. In cities like New York and London, there are similar large live music projects, with very intricate arrangements that can only be done by professional musicians. But in Hong Kong, no one was doing it. Fortunately, because of my job with the Philharmonic, I was able to lure in musicians who normally don’t do this sort of thing. It’s a 13-piece group, which is quite huge for Hong Kong.

What’s the main difference between performing with Shaolin Fez versus the Philharmonic? I think my colleagues find it kind of refreshing. With the job, we do a fair amount of pop and light-hearted programming, but it’s very different when you go to a club. It becomes a lot more personal. The problem with the concert hall is that there is an invisible veil between the stage and the audience, and you feel a bit removed. One of the reasons why I think it’s good for us to get out into the clubs is to feel a connection with the audience, and it’s good for the audience to feel that connection as well.  

What’s acid jazz, anyway? “Acid jazz” itself is a very loose term. Acid jazz doesn’t actually mean jazz, it means groove music with a little bit of jazz improvisation. We play plenty of music like that: When we do outdoor festivals or loud performances, our music is best described as acid jazz or R&B and funk. This upcoming unplugged show, though, will not have anything like that.

Then what can we expect from your next show? Usually, more than half the music we play are original songs, and the styles vary wildly from funk and R&B and rock, to far more cinematic music. But this show has even more of a twist because we’re getting rid of the drum set and we’re focusing more on the symphonic arrangements. It’s going to be more moody and atmospheric. We’ve done ballads in the past and they’ve gone over extremely well—so I thought it would be nice to put together a whole show of this kind of music.

What’s the charity side of this gig? We’re launching a crowdfunding campaign the same night. It’s a 45-day campaign to record, which we haven’t done for over four years. We’re an independent project, we don’t have a record label, and recording a large group with real acoustic instruments is quite expensive. We’re going to raise money to record an EP called “This Is Now Our Home.” We’ll donate 100% of the sales to refugee relief, specifically Save the Children’s efforts in the Middle East. We thought: if people are giving to us just to give us the opportunity to record, the least we can do is be generous ourselves and donate the sales.