JAZZ AT PLAY: 7 SONGS AT CHRISTMAS
Victoria Theatre, last Thursday
Singer Alemay Fernandez re-did her entrance to the Jazz At Play concert last Thursday night, declaring of the burst of applause that greeted her: "Hold on. We're going to do that again like you mean it."
The audience promptly responded with even more enthusiastic clapping and cheers, proving they had missed live music performers as much as the latter had missed them.
Expressions of gratitude at being back onstage were the recurring grace note of the evening, the first of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts' three-night double-bill programmes of local music acts.
Pianist Tan Wei Xiang's Wei 5 and drummer Aaron James Lee's trio shared the limelight for the evening, with singers Fernandez and Sarah Chew coming on board for some numbers.
The programme format of seven songs by each band - a set list comprising a Christmas song, a jazz standard, an original number, and two songs that represent this year and the next, as well as two audience selections - offered some diversity to the evening.
After a fluffed note in the opening tune, Wei 5 recovered with a nice take on Poinciana, in which drummer Lee kept time with ankle bells - an intriguing instrument choice.
The third song, an original titled Elegy, proved more discordant than elegiac, as the wall of sound threatened to disintegrate in a complex middle section.
JAZZ AT PLAY: ONLINE WATCH PARTY
WHEN Sunday (Project Ra), Monday (Namie and the Waves), Tuesday (Jordan Wei Trio) and next Wednesday (Joanna Dong), 9pm
But Fernandez, a familiar favourite with jazz fans here, livened things up the minute she bounced on stage with her irrepressible enthusiasm.
She offered a confident take on Willow Weep For Me in her warm caramel tones and teased Wei 5 for choosing Last Christmas by Wham! before getting the audience to sing along with the chorus.
But the highlight was her simple duet with Wei 5, an achingly tender delivery of For All We Know, which she dedicated to Singapore singer Mah Choon Hong. The jazz stalwart of the 1980s and 1990s died of Covid-19 in the United States earlier this week.
Drummer Lee's trio, with pianist Joshua Wan and bassist Ben Poh, proved a tighter ensemble than the somewhat scrappy Wei 5.
Wan's snappy playing, with vigorous nods to Thelonious Monk, was matched with happy bouncing on the bench, communicating his unalloyed joy at performing.
Singer Chew, standing in at the last minute for singer Richard Jackson, acquitted herself nicely - despite a narrow vocal range - on This Love Of Mine, River and We'll Be Together.
The two-hour concert flew by in the blink of an eye, aided by the novelty of once again being in the same room as performers. The good vibes chased away the little hiccups of the evening.