Jazz guitarist takes centre stage

At his Artless State gig, Andrew Lim will take on jazz standards and play original songs.
At his Artless State gig, Andrew Lim will take on jazz standards and play original songs.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Jazz pundits who have been to gigs by prominent home-grown acts such as Jeremy Monteiro, Rani Singam and Chok Kerong in the past few years might have noticed guitarist Andrew Lim playing in the background.

On Saturday, the 41-year-old will finally take centre stage as the leader of a band of four performing at the Esplanade Recital Studio. The gig, titled Artless State, will feature his take on jazz standards as well as original songs from the debut album that he is working on.

"This is the start of my efforts to do my own thing, to put my own music out there," he says in an interview at the Esplanade. "I was spending a lot more of my time clarifying my aesthetic and approach, so I wasn't interested in putting out music until it's time.

"I think it's time now to take all that I've learnt over the years and try to make some music that hopefully people will like."

Lim, who also plays with soul/ jazz band The Steve McQueens and the Jazz Association of Singapore Orchestra, has been very much in demand as a sessionist, collaborator and educator since he came back to Singapore in 2016.

He had spent five years in New York, where he graduated with a master's in music from the Aaron Copland School of Music. More importantly, he immersed himself in the jazz scene there and performed in iconic venues like Blue Note, Jazz at Lincoln Centre and Dizzy's.


  • WHERE: Esplanade Recital Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Saturday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $28 for standard tickets, limited $20 concessions for students, full-time national servicemen and seniors. Go to www.esplanade.com or Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555).

"My focus was to play with people. There is a cultural component and an attention to detail that is not apparent if you don't play the music with the people that come from the same lineage as those who created it."

Lim fell in love with jazz at a young age. He remembers being enraptured by a concert by American jazz musician Buddy Collette that was aired on Malaysian channel RTM while he was still in kindergarten. He recorded the show on VCR and watched the tape countless times until he memorised all the solos.

At 14, he taught himself how to play the bass by memorising all the bass lines in Marvin Gaye's What's Going On (1971) and Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amour (1969). To learn more about music, he read extensively.

In the late 1990s, he joined local indie band Stroll and recorded demos and an album with them.

He studied economics at the National University of Singapore and joined the school's jazz band. It was there that he met pianist Tan Weixiang, who became a long-time collaborator. Tan is part of his band at the Esplanade show.

"We would cut classes, go to the band room and try to figure out this music. I'm immensely proud of my peers because we all grew up out of nothing and, as a result, we all have our own voices. It's very inspiring to hear everyone develop a very unique sound, which I think is a very hard thing to do," says Lim, who started out playing for home-grown jazz veterans like Monteiro and Louis Soliano in the early 2000s.

Lim's quartet at the Esplanade show is rounded out by bass player Benjamin Poh and drummer Aaron James Lee.

Besides gigs and working on his compositions, Lim also teaches music at Lasalle College of the Arts and the NUS Jazz Band and is a mentor with the Esplanade's Mosaic Jazz Fellows programme.

With his own music now getting into the spotlight, he recently started to ramp up his online presence by setting up artist social media profiles and a YouTube page. He is also in the midst of setting up his own music studio.

"I want to fight for my own reality where I get to do music in a certain way and to teach in an honest way."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Jazz guitarist takes centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe