Fast Talkin': Interview with Singapore's Own Jazz Stars

The Singapore International Jazz Festival 2014, was off to a great start last night with artists like Jamie Cullum giving a highly energetic performance at the Marina Bay Sands. There's a lot more to expect in this four-day event, organised by Orbis Festival Productions. Looking very much like Singapore's largest ever jazz festival, and with the amazing line-up of Grammy winners such as India Arie, Natalie Cole and Gregory Porter, widely acclaimed names like Allen Stone, Dirty Loops, and Earth Wind & Fire Experience, SingJazz is one festival not to be missed. 

According to David Lyndon Smith, Artistic Director of Orbis Festival Productions, this festival was a labour of love that was two years in the making - it was conceived by a group of jazz-lovers who want to add to the growing and evolving jazz scene here, especially after the success of Brass Explosion 2012. "This is a combination of personal interest in the genre itself and the artists that we enjoy listening to and have recognised as game-changers, as well as an honest look at how we can create a festival that will appeal to as wide an audience as possible," he says. 

And while the international acts on the roster are huge, prominent names in jazz, there is also an amazing gathering of regional and local artists like the Asian All-Stars Quartet led by Jeremy Monteiro and featuring Melissa Tham, and the UK Jazz Masters with Alemay Fernandez and Richard Jackson, and phenomenal bassist Christy Smith. We round them up to talk about all things jazz.

The jazz artists in Singapore are such talented people, totally passionate about their work, warm and wonderfully eclectic. They embrace such a wide range of genres, and work together as a family. The jazz scene is a growing one, bigger than it used to be but with so much more that could be done to recognize the their talents, and that is largely what Sing Jazz aims to do – to create a jazz scene that is dynamic and exciting.
David Lyndon Smith, Artistic Director of Orbis Festival Production

How do you feel about being part of this pretty stellar line-up?  

Melissa Tham: It feels great to be part of something so big happening in Singapore. Especially the fact that it is a jazz festival!

Christy Smith: I am thankful and honored to be a part of the stellar line- up. This is an opportunity to contribute to the overall success of the festival in some small way, musically speaking.

Alemay Fernandez: I feel extremely honored & humbled. But mostly incredibly excited!! I really have to thank David Smith & Ian Ingram on the organising committee for letting me be a part of this historic event!

Is there another artist whose performance you'd like to catch?

MT: Yes, I would love to catch Dirty Loops and Natalie Cole, both acts on the same night that I'm performing! I do want to catch Allen Stone and Gregory Porter as well. 

CS: I would like to see most of the artists. Roy Hargrove, EWF Experience, Natalie Cole, Dirty Loops, Roberta Gambarini, to name a few.

AF: Gregory Porter, Roy Hargrove, India Arie & Dirty Loops only because I haven't seen them performing live.

Natalie Cole, Incognito & James Morrison whom I've seen live before are incredible. There's so much good music, it's truly fantastic.

What do you think of the jazz scene in Singapore?

MT: It will always be there. The scene will definitely experience highs and lows. It has already gone through difficult times, and today it is still around. I do feel education as well as appreciation of this genre need to start from school, or even from home! The problem is that, a lot here don't know such music or rather, such live music actually exists. 

CS: The fact that live music is magnanimous, universal and the life blood of Humankind. The Singapore Jazz Festival will bring international peoples together to celebrate life and music. And, perpetuate the legacy of Jazz and its history. I think that we can all witness this in AWE!! 

AF: There is so much talent here but sadly not a large enough audience that supports the live jazz scene regularly enough to keep it thriving. I hope this festival will help people realise how much talent there is here, and make an effort to come out more often and support the talent so the scene can continue to thrive.

In a sentence, tell us why jazz is awesome: 

MT: It just is! 

CS:  Jazz is awesome because it lives and breathes through people from its inception to present day!

AF: Jazz music is some of the best music ever written because it possesses the power to touch you so subtly that you don't even realise how affected you are by its message and it continues to inspire for years to come.

Melissa Tham: Day 2, Friday, 28 February
Christy Smith: Day 3, Saturday, 1 March
Alemay Fernandez: Day 4, Sunday, 2 March