Hot Tracks

On Phil Lam's sixth release, there is sweetness and tenderness on ballads such as The First Breakfast and on the chart-topping Romance. The Vancouver-born, Hong Kong-based crooner is equally persuasive in English on Missing You and All I Have Is You and in Mandarin on the upbeat Do You Know.

Definition Not Found gives a lexicographical spin on the theme of loss: "Can't find the definition for love, you've been cruel of late/Can't find the definition for love, you think I'm nothing." Stop Breeding takes a dim view of our times: "This era forces us into extinction/As we kiss with so much dread."

On their eighth release, C AllStar offer a varied look at love as well.

Professionally Heartbroken 30 Years is the ultimate sad sack love song: "Use yesterday to divine the future, still won't be loved next year/Wanted by no one, cared for by no one, loved by no one."

  • ASIAN POP

  • SONGS OF LOVE

    Phil Lam

    Sony Music Entertainment

    3.5/5 stars

    LOVEHOLIC VOL. 1

    C AllStar

    Media Asia Music

    3.5/5 stars

A different kettle of fish is the cheeky Bromance: "Waiting for orders in a crisis, spurring the horse to full speed, battling with bro through the night/The way men love, only men understand, sweetness comes from silence."

Boon Chan


Duchess, comprising New York singers Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou, model their sounds on the close harmony vocals of girl groups of the 1930s and 1940s. Living up to the title of their sophomore album, Duchess deliver an irrepressibly sunny ode to the brighter side of jazz.

  • JAZZ

  • LAUGHING AT LIFE

    Duchess

    Anzic Records

    4/5 stars

The opening track Swing Brother Swing sets the tone, with the singers' satiny vocals slinking easily through an intimate jazz combo setting provided by pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Jared Schonig. Saxophonist Jeff Lederer jumps in for some bop counterpoint doodling that contrasts nicely with the group's swing stylings.

Duchess do not mess with post- modern irony or campy mash-ups. Instead, they polish up straight, old-school swing till it shines.

They show their technical prowess with a killer Everybody Loves My Baby, where they scat, imitate saxophone wails and deliver lyrics at rapid-fire speed; swoon gently in sotto voce for Stars Fell On Alabama, which gets a boost from Wycliffe Gordon's muted trombone; and skip in good humour for Johnny Mercer's cheeky Strip Polka.

Watch out for Dawn, a rare gem co-written by Vet Boswell, the youngest of the Boswell Sisters. The saccharine sweetness is tempered by the bluegrass twang of Jesse Lewis' guitar.

Ong Sor Fern


Here are some classic 1970s recordings of chamber works by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882- 1971), centred on his neoclassical phase of composition.

  • 20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS STRAVINSKY THE SOLDIER'S TALE/

  • SCHOENBERG CHAMBER SYMPHONY

    Boston Symphony Chamber Players

    Eloquence 480 3300 (2 CDs)

    5/5 stars

The quintessential work is The Soldier's Tale (1918), a chamber melodrama with narration featuring a series of marches and dances with a touch of jazz idioms. This is often regarded as the best recording of this work, with violinist Joseph Silverstein, narrator John Gielgud, Tom Courtenay as The Soldier and a beguiling but positively malevolent Devil in Ron Moody.

The Septet, Octet For Winds, Concertino, Pastorale and Ragtime represent the most attractive of Stravinsky's shorter pieces, made better by the excellent Chamber Players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Stravinsky's greatest composing rival was Arnold Schoenberg, ironically a fellow emigre living in Los Angeles. The Chamber Symphony No. 1 is one of the Austrian's most popular and approachable works and the chamber transcription for five players by Anton Webern is as transparent as it is effective.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe