Speaklow! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol.8

Voice it out with Shun Sakai – an iconic jazz vocalist from Japan this month, and get hypnotised by her soulfulness and extraordinary talent. Be ready to have some fun improvisation with Hapi DrumsđŸ„Â at the state-of-the-art and cozy  Palm Ave Float Club! 😊😇  You don’t have to be a vocalist to take part. Find out more in the peatix link here.

There are only 25 tickets available for this exclusive event, so grab your tickets now!

See you there!

Speaklow! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol.8

[Report] Thank you : Jazz at The RedDot 2017

Hi everyone!

This is Aya Sekine, one of the directors of WLJ SG.

It’s been a month since we have completed our biggest project since our inception last September. The month of April was a little crazy for all of us, so it took us a while to look back and reflect –  let me walk you through how we were involved!

We did it! : Jazz At the Red Dot (JARD) Workshop 2017

It’s a long story and going backwards, but just to give you a summary, on 16th April Sunday, we have finished our first mega project in partnership with non-profit Jazz Asia.  This inaugural 9-day Jazz At The RedDot Workshop was programmed by New York City based guitarist / educator Rory Stuart and his exciting 6 other faculty members were consisted of hottest of the NY Jazz scene and that means the world : Camila Meza (vocal) Jason Palmer (trumpet)  John Ellis (saxophone) Aaron Goldberg (piano) Ben Williams (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) – how about this crazy line up!

WLJ SG’s role for JARD 2017

We were referred to Jazz Asia from interesting places, and just as we wanted to reach out to them, they came to us from the right source. We felt it was a meant-to-be work for us. We are jazz-activists who believe in indigenous roots, and in inclusive sharing spirit of the knowledge and community building – which this workshop was all about.  We are hungry for inspirations, and so we took the offer because we felt this initiative was really good for our jazz & improvised music community of Singapore. 

Our task was mainly in management and operation of the workshop, providing logistics, administrative, marketing and operations support which started about a month prior to the workshop. 

The project manager was Dawn Ho, one of our directors, assisted by Clarice Handoko, a friend and a new addition to our team (coincidently, they are both jazz vocalists, and yoga lovers). They have worked hard to gather & helm a team of 19 (4 managers and 15 admins) operating the workshop on the day-to-day basis, including liaising with the program director Rory Stuart (The New School Of Music) and Munib Madni, the executive director of Jazz-Asia.

Welcoming attendees for the first day!

Our team had our head quarter office set-up at *SCAPE, run our daily tasks such as ushering students to respective class rooms, supplying photocopies and giving directions to faculties who are new to Singapore – we are the hands and legs of the people.

We have also prepared a survey form (paper, and Google Drive both) to get a feedback from the participants. Together with JA, we believe this is a really important part because if we will continue to work on this project, it has to improve. Our team, JA directors and Rory are all very focused in smallest detail for workshop quality, admin, and also for us, our own internal management.

Photos by Beng Hui Eu

Despite the hard hard workload especially for the on-site managers (Dawn, Rafee & Kimberly) we gained new friendships, loads of inspirations and an outlook for bright future of even better version – JARD 2018.

Voluntary jazz appreciation workshop project at Spectra Secondary School with The US Embassy

Photo by Spectra Secondary School

Besides running JARD workshop, we were also assigned to facilitate/co-program a voluntary Jazz appreciation workshop at Spectra Secondary School in Woodlands, with JARD faculties performing and sharing their love for this indigenous music of America, Jazz.

How this project came to us.

Spectra school is chaperoned by US Embassy who has sponsored the JARD graduation concert at the Singapore Botanical Gardens, so in return with thanks, JA’s founder Munib asked if we would like to program and manage it on a voluntary basis, and of course, yes! Myself as the main coordinator for this particular event, it was such an amazing journey working with Mr. Syed Abdillah (Spectra), Ms. Allyson Coyne (US Embassy) and with JARD program director Rory – I believe we’ve all learned so much through this experience, from kids and faculty of this very special school.

Drummer Greg Hutchinson helping kids answer Aaron Goldberg’s question ‘What is improvisations?’

This was a spectacular collaboration in many ways. First of all, Spectra Secondary school is an AMAZING place to be. When we visited the school for the first time for the meeting, the program coordinator Syed took us around and we (Munib, Allyson and myself) were all equally impressed how thought-out the school system was, not to mention how kids were all smiling and greeting us every time we bumped into them!

Spectra Secondary School is ‘a specialized school for Normal Technical students’ according to their website. Their school vision of Every student equipped to lead a fulfilling life.”  also the school principal quotes from African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” – these resonated with us so strongly, we felt it was really the right occasion, to be involved in this project via Jazz at The RedDot initiative. Please do go to their school website, and read their school philosophy and mission & vision. It’s really what all humans must believe in…Do read about Spectra’s vision [ here ]. 

Kids were quite excited and responsive! Photo by Spectra Secondary School

Going back to the workshop instead of putting an album with our iPhone snaps, why not you please take a look at this beautiful album “Jazz @ Spectra” by the school on their Facebook page : [ Here ]

We would like to thank Spectra school’s fabulous faculty – Syed, Nuriman, all the teachers accompanying kids, and the US Embassy for bringing us this opportunity to work with music and people who are so strong, pushing forward their beliefs. We are very fortunate to have been part of it! From WLJ SG team, Namie joined to help me move the instruments around and manage things with me. By the way, the instruments we used for the workshop were fully sponsored by The Analog Factory (TAF) – these guys are a true gem. Thank you Keith and TAF for your generous support for this very important initiative.

Namie Rasman, WLJ SG director having so much fun listening to faculty’s performance!

Now a real THANK YOU,  JARD 2017!

So the crazy 2 weeks have ended safely, and we would like to finally thank everyone.

Firstly, to the people who inspired all of us to the bones – the faculty : Rory Stuart (guitar), Camila Meza (vocal), Jason Palmer (trumpet), John Ellis (saxophone), Aaron Goldberg (piano), Ben Williams (bass) and Gregory Hutchinson (drums) – we really needed all the teachings from them (even though most of us were busy running around, we still had opportunities to sit-in in the bigger classes).

Thank you to the big contributors behind the scene : Clement Chow, The Analog Factory, The US Embassy of Singapore, Bass Loft & Brandon Wong for contributing generously to make this initiative happen!

Also we would like to thank our passionate supporter, Mr. Dan Cerf, who has given a scholarship for an individual who is driven and with artistic integrity : James Gunawan was carefully selected by Mr.Cerf out of all the application and their vision for jazz community of Singapore. You can read James’ reflection about the workshop  [ here ]

And we would like to thank all 70 participants of the workshop, the ambassadors and LITP (Local Teacher Instruction Program) personnels, everyone who came out to Singapore Botanical Garden for the graduation concert, all Jazz-Asia staff, and Munib ‘DLL’ Madni, for believing in WLJ SG.

And last but not least, yay to Team WLJ SG :
Project manager : Dawn Ho
Operation manager : Clarice Handoko
On-site Managers : Rafee & Kimberly
Administrative crew : Marian, Adeline, Beatrice, Carissa, Kelly, Kim, Marian, Munees, Regina, Samantha, Seraphina, Shiang Ting, Torey
HQ crew : Ashlee, Namie, Aya

Next year, we will up our game so we can get even more inspirations, milk the occasion to the maximum!

See you all at JARD 2018!

Photo by Robert Seng

What’s next? : SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol.8

After JARD 2017, we have organised UNESCO’s International Jazz Day 2017 which we have shared some photos on our Facebook page, but now we are preparing for upcoming event : 27th May 2-5pm SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol.8 with phenomenal Japanese jazz vocal / improvisor Shun Sakai. This event is also special as we collaborate with new venue partner Palm Avenue Float Club, Kembangan!

Incredible Shun Sakai from Japan

This event will be partially a participatory improvisation workshop with voice – no need to be a vocalist to join, but please make sure you sign up immediately when we publish the event, as it is limited to 25 people! PAFC Kembangan is such a cozy little space, we love it so much.

See you on 27th May, Saturday. It’s an afternoon event, we will be done by 6pm. Details coming up very soon – do mark the date for now 🙂

And don’t forget to sign-up to our mailing list from [ HERE! ] newsletter coming soon!


[Report] Thank you : Jazz at The RedDot 2017

[Reflection] Jazz at the Red Dot by James Gunawan

James Gunawan is the recipient of Dan Cerf Scholarship for the Jazz @ the Red Dot workshop. He was carefully selected by the generous scholarship sponsor Mr. Dan Cerf, a passionate supporter of music and We Love Jazz SG. In this blog post, James Gunawan has specially written a personal reflection about his Jazz @ the Red Dot experience. Continue below to read. – WLJSG

A Reflection By James Gunawan

“The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.”


Seeing world class, top-of-the-game musicians up close is another experience altogether; it makes your jaw drop, yet exhilarated, because of the things they do that you’ve never imagined possible. I’m so thankful for the scholarship generously provided by Mr. Dan Cerf, without which I wouldn’t even think of going for this workshop. The image of Gregory Hutchinson playing his swing with such a grounded feel and bounce at the same time will be forever burned in my mind as a drummer.

Just for the benefit of those who don’t know what the workshop is about, this is a brief overview.

Jazz at the Red Dot is a 5-day workshop that was held in Singapore, which brought in world class musicians as its faculty members; and among those cats were Gregory Hutchinson, an amazing jazz drummer who has played with so many other great musicians.

Each day of the first 4 days consists of series of classes (music theory, ear training, masterclasses, etc), and ends with a group ensemble session that’s being mentored by one of the faculty members. On day 5, we were all given a chance to perform with our ensemble at botanic garden, in front of hundreds of people.

There are so much things that I have learned from the workshop, but to keep things organised, I shall share my 3 main takeaways, followed by a brief conclusion.

The groove, the swing, the pop

Jazz originated from dance music, and thus, at the heart of jazz is its swing: that feeling that makes people wants to move and dance. This then begs the question, if we were to strip away all the complicated rhythm and harmony in our playing, does it, really, swing? And on all the solo breaks that we do, in which we have practiced countless hours for, does it still have that groove in it?

When I put things in this aspect, it becomes something that is intimidating, yet liberating at the same time. It is intimidating, because, it tells me that I cannot just learn a technique and play in it time – I’ve got to also strive to make it feel good, which surely multiplies the amount of practice required (as if jazz is not already hard enough). Yet, it’s liberating because, well, you may not need such complicated stuff to sound good – just do whatever you know so well that it’s swinging, and you’re great to go.

Serving the music

The first point above does lead into this one: does what we do still serve the music in the aspect of groove – which is one of the foundation of great music?

On a broader aspect, Gregory Hutchinson (drum instructor) and Ben Williams (bass instructor) emphasized in one masterclass that we have to be a team player in band, who’s always doing things to serve the music in the moment, rather than blowing up our ego by showing every single chops that we’ve learned in the practice room.

In our first ensemble session, Greg wants to us to try learning a song we’ve never heard before (Water Babies, by Miles Davis second quintet), which has a rather different feel than most jazz standards – mainly because of the fact that, as he puts it, the horns are the ones keeping the time while the rhythm section is a little more free to give colours and textures. He mentioned to us that the song doesn’t always have to be done that way; we have to listen to what’s happening in the moment, and play appropriately. In the original recordings, Tony Williams (dr) was doing mostly colourings with the cymbals, and doesn’t really define the time; but yet, as we are playing the song, if somehow the horns are having difficulty keeping the time, the drummer has to come in and help establish the time, so that the song doesn’t evolve into a messy blob of sound. In another instance, if the singer has difficulty finding the pitch, the pianist / keyboardist has to assist by giving a chord that helps them find the right pitch.

These are just a few examples on how we can help serve the music, and be a team player in a band. We can only start growing in this area when we start listening to what’s happening around us, and trying to understand how we can makes things sound better. And when we learn to do this, it will bring us one step further in maturing as an artist.

Performance at Singapore Botanic Gardens with Greg Hutchinson’s ensemble group. Photo by BH Photography.

Playing with honesty and integrity

This is something that’s rather new to me, and probably the most abstract of them all – but yet, I believe it will give so much meaning to what we play. I’ve heard it throughout the years, that we’ve got to mean what we play, but have never really understood it until Aaron Goldberg (p) shared his wisdom in his ear training class. Simply put, this aspect can be encapsulated in one question: can we sing accurately what we are playing?

Singing the things that we play essentially requires a few undeniable components:

  1. A clear idea how it sounds rhythmically.
  2. A clear idea how it sounds melodically.
  3. A clear idea on how the phrase starts AND ends.
  4. An ability to translate exactly the idea that we have with full integrity to the instrument.

which, if you think about it, is really not an easy thing to do, and as my friend puts it, is a rather inefficient way to do it. Why would we need to “know” the melodic phrase if I can just run up and down the scale? Why would we need to be able to sing the drum solos if we can just play a rudiments and play it around the toms?

To me, this kinda goes back to music being an artistic expression of ourselves as human beings. Each of us, through our own unique life-experiences, is gifted with our own unique voice. And as we learn to translate them into our instrument, we began to express what we really want to communicate to the world, and not just a collection of bizarre ideas.

To just draw an analogy, let’s imagine having a conversation instead of playing music. For example, say you want to communicate “That sunset is beautiful”; but instead, what comes out of your mouth is something along “Sun yellow yellow marries I wishes” (gosh, this is the most incoherent sentence I can come up with. Yes, I cringed.). What then? Yes it’s English (like, well, playing in the correct scale), and yes it’s pronounced correctly (perhaps like, playing in time in perfect triplet), but does it really have meaning? Does it really convey what you are trying to communicate, even the slightest? And furthermore, will it invite a completely different response than you originally intended? These are just some questions I had in mind, and it hopefully will always be in my mind for the rest of my musical journey.

As such, should learn how to express ourselves in the most honest way possible. Yes, it is not the easiest thing to do (in fact, I still don’t have a good idea how to really do it), but as we learn to communicate what we mean in our instruments with full honesty, we will learn to be an artist that’s true to ourselves, which surely brings so much satisfaction. Speaking what we don’t mean is essentially profanity, and we don’t want to be profane in doing the things that we love most.

A photo with Greg Hutchinson


All in all, Jazz music is an art form, done collectively with other musician. While we learn to express what we really wish to, we should not forget that it has to all be done in the spirit of serving the music, and more importantly, serving individual artistic expression of each musician in the bandstand. It’s easy to say that someone in our band hasn’t practice enough, but the question is, have we learned enough to make those less experienced than us sound better than they could’ve done themselves?

[Reflection] Jazz at the Red Dot by James Gunawan