The jazz pianist tweaks things again at the Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival 2012, writes Subhadra Devan
JAZZ pianist Michael Veerapen is renowned in the music circuit for his proficiency in his chosen genre. Also a composer, musical director and teacher, the Berklee College of Music graduate of 1982 has left an indelible mark in the local music arena.
His most recent success came for his music direction in the 2011 Lat Kampung Boy Sebuah Muzikal, for which he took home the 2012 Boh Cameronian award for Best Original Music.
“It was a really nice surprise to be recognised for things outside of the jazz performance world,” he says.
No stranger to festivals around the world, Veerapen will be performing at the Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival 2012 this weekend.
He says: “The festival covers virtually all the jazz idioms so it should have something for everyone who loves one style of jazz or the other.”
In the late 1970s, Veerapen and drummer Lewis Pragasam, the pioneer behind Asiabeat, had organised Malaysia’s Jazz Rock concerts.
Veerapen says: “The Jazz Rock I and Jazz Rock II Concerts happened because the performing bands in KL (Revolvers, Discovery, Carefree, Delta and Vintage) agreed to perform for free, just for the love of ‘jazz rock/fusion’.
“This was in the late 1970s. University Malaya sponsored the Experimental Theatre and we charged RM1 a ticket and they were sold out (all 800 tickets).
“It just barely covered the cost of poster printing and some minor expenses. Essentially, it was a community effort. Staging a real festival takes an extreme amount of money which involves a lot of sponsors, etc.
“I guess that was one reason we didn’t go any further with these concerts. In 1980 I left for Berklee College of Music to study music and upon my return, went on to other interests.”
Those concerts did much to boost interest in the genre especially among a younger audience. Veerapen’s own early influence came from his cousin, S.S. Lingam.
“I was in my pre-teens when S.S. Lingam introduced me to jazz — he made me listen to Oscar Peterson (Canadian jazz pianist and composer). I am grateful that he did. When I heard Peterson play, I thought to myself if I could only play a little like him...”
On the Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival 2012 being a musician’s kind of event, Veerapen says: “ We have a very good following for jazz in Malaysia and our ‘laymen’ are quite sophisticated in their tastes.”
Veerapen will offer “a mix of things, from Latin to mainstream, originals and standards” at the event.
“But as usual, I would have tweaked things to make them just different enough so as not to be a copy of anyone else!”
He will be performing with two “very young and talented future stars” — Steve Nansa on drums and Daniel Foong on bass. Completing the lineup are jazz saxophonist Patrick Terbrack and singer Junji Delfino.
Terbrack is a music lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and director of the Kuala Lumpur Youth Jazz Orchestra. Delfino, also well-known in the jazz circuit, took home a 2012 Boh Cameronian Best Solo Performance (Vocal) award for the musical theatre show, Lush Life.
Other artistes who will perform tomorrow and on Sunday at the Plenary Hall, KL Convention Centre are Indra Lesmana, the Patrick Terbrack Quartet and the RTM Jazz Orchestra featuring Irene Soliano.
Get tickets from Ticket Pro at www.ticketpro.com.my, call 03-7880 7999 or visit www.klinternationaljazz.com.