Colleagues pay tribute to jazz trumpeter Silverio 'Berry' Yaneza

Colleagues pay tribute to Silverio 'Berry' Yaneza, who lit up the stage for 50 years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:30am

Filipino trumpeter Silverio "Berry" Yaneza, who died last week, lit up the stage in Hong Kong for more than half a century in big bands and for many years in two bands at jazz pub Ned Kelly's Last Stand in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Known for his melodious sound on numbers such as Basin Street Blues, and for his humour - larking about in wig and apron while singing falsetto Japanese - Yaneza came from a family of musicians, moving to Hong Kong in 1949.

At the end of the second world war, Yaneza entertained US troops and flew over Hiroshima shortly after it was bombed. A career highlight was meeting legendary American trumpeter Louis Armstrong in 1957 when Armstrong played in Hong Kong's City Hall. "He told me 'practise, practise, practise, because you never stop learning'," Yaneza said in a 2000 interview.

His first job in Hong Kong was with bandleader Naong Dizon at the Sky Room in North Point, before joining bandleader Pino Gatchalian in 1951 at the Ambassador Ballroom in Kennedy Town. The band would later move to the Paramount Nightclub in Central where the Landmark now stands.

Yaneza played scores for Chinese movies and EMI but his first love was jazz, especially bebop - "modern jazz, you know, Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker". In later years, he worked for bandleader Fred Carpio playing old-style classics, then would go with fellow musicians to the other clubs and play the jazz they loved. He played intermittently but for long stints at Ned Kelly's with Ken Bennett and the Kowloon Honkers and later Colin Aitchison and the China Coast Jazzmen.

"Berry's trumpet playing was a hugely important part of the sound of the China Coast Jazzmen from the beginning of their residency at Ned Kelly's Last Stand in 1998 to his retirement at the age of 85 in 2011," said music writer Robin Lynam. "He was one of Hong Kong's great veteran players."

"Berry was the last of the old school players with the Harry James sound. He had that same syrupy sound," Aitchison said. "He was a very lyrical player, where every note Berry played was from the heart. He was very disciplined. He would always be in before everyone else warming up. He was also my stooge and very funny on stage with his wigs, apron and Korean and Japanese songs. He was a technical player who sang with an Ink Spots voice."