IT began with the piano, seven years ago, to get musicians grooving and give music fans some wholesome, educational fun.
Helming the 7th Malaysian Jazz Piano Festival, Tay Cher Siang says: "I am proud to say I was there from the first year on. Michael Veerapan just called and said that we should get together to play, and share our knowledge and experience with those who like to know about jazz in Malaysia. We started from a small festival at No Black Tie, and slowly expanded to KLPAC.
"We saw some attendees return every year to attend the celebration of music, and we have seen younger musicians grow and become masters in their crafts.
"We welcomed many practitioners of this art to share, to perform, to contribute to the scene."
The festival is the brainchild of Veerapen, an established jazz pianist, producer and mentor, among the other hats that he wears.
He, with Tay, jazz pianist and composer, and six other musicians have been instrumental in making the festival inspirational for the growth of young musicians offering music clinics, workshops and performances over the three-day event.
Other events are a college/university night performance with music students representing their schools, such as ICOM, UiTM, UCSI, and UPM.
One highlight of the festival is the Jazz Talent Competition, now open to music students and non-professionals who aspire to play jazz.
"With our expansion came the influx of instrumentalists joining the effort, so it was only natural that the competition would be expanded to include instrumentalists as well. For the next step, we would like to welcome singers as well," says Tay.
Tay is looking forward to the competition.
"We have selected some up-and-coming players as finalists.
"To witness the sparks of ideas during the competition, is electrifying. We have been through it all, we knew how it felt, and we like to encourage the young players to step up, to show to the world what they are capable of. May the force be with you."
Jaw-dropping performances are expected from Frankie Sixes, Julian Chan Jazz Orchestra (JCJO), UiTM Big Band, Grace Leong Semboyan, Wei Li Cheah Quartet, among others.
Says Chan: "This festival is significant for my group, JCJO, and personally for me, because it is one of the only jazz festivals in Malaysia that combine education and performance.
"It highlights the sense of community among jazz musicians throughout Malaysia, and it is also a chance to showcase the diversity and the high level of musicians in our local music community. Of course, this festival is also an opportunity for me to showcase my jazz orchestra.
"My band is a standard size jazz big band, from 17 to 19 musicians on stage. I formed this group in early 2018 with the initial intention of having a community-based big band where musicians from different walks of life could come and play jazz big band music.
"At present, there aren't many active jazz big bands in Malaysia; the ones that are out there are a variant of a pops orchestra or a symphony orchestra. I hope to be able to make this a fully working jazz orchestra, so that's really my long game plan.
"We performed our first concert on Sept 6, 2018 at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) theatre hall, and it featured Junji Delfino on vocals for some tunes.
"Michael (Veerapen) is an important benefactor of this orchestra. He's been instrumental in helping me take the leap to start this venture, the other person being my wife!
"Michael has contributed several big band arrangements for us to perform as well.
"Our subsequent performances include last year's (2019) MJPF — our debut in the festival — and Borneo Jazz Festival 2019 where we played two shows featuring several artistes including Shanghai-based vocalist Jasmine Chen (of the Crazy Rich Asians fame), and Italian tenor saxophonist Diego Borotti.”
Chan feels the workshops and the festival itself constitute the learning experience.
"Even though my colleagues and I are working professional musicians in the scene, we are still students of the music. It is through performance, giving lessons, workshops and masterclasses that we are able to improve as musicians and artistes."
At the end of the day, Tay and Chan want Malaysians and music fans to have a good time.
Says Chan: "That's what it's all about! One of the takeaways for the consumer of the performing arts is that we would like for them to go home feeling inspired, happy, emotionally and mentally touched after coming to watch our shows.
"As practitioners of the performing arts, it is our job to be able to make at least one person (the more the better, of course) go home feeling like a part of their life was enriched from having watched us out on a good show."
Says Tay: "There will be so much music going on, so much sharing, and so much love going around. As long as one loves music…"
Malaysian Jazz Piano Festival 2020
When: Jan 10-13
Where: KLPAC, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Sentul, KL
Tickets for 8pm concerts at RM85 each night, with concessions at RM50 per night and RM125 for three nights.
All clinics are free.
Call 03-4047 9000 or visit www.proticket.com.my/klpac-7th-malaysian-jazz-piano-festival