[Report] AYASCHOOL: Jungle Jam (WLJ Participatory Series #1)

For the month of March, we conducted our first We Love Jazz Participatory Series featuring Ayaschool: Jungle Jam.

Find out what one of our participant has to say about the experience. He is a BA student of Jazz at LASALLE College Of the Arts. Very driven and interested to learn everything about jazz and improvised music! Continue reading to learn more about the series.

Words by: Xavier Lim

After WLJ’s well-received SPEAKLOW! SpeakEasy Music Session Vol. 7 (feat. Christy Smith), the next event promised to be equally ambitious and even more engaging. Ayaschool: Jungle Jam, the brainchild of We Love Jazz founding director Aya Sekine, occurred as a result. Promising to be a quarterly event of pure improvisation, Jungle Jam was free-of-charge for registrants (both performers or listeners) and open to absolutely anyone!

Held at LASALLE College of The Arts (G302 studio) from 4 to 7 pm on Sunday, 26th March 2017, the event was open and all- inclusive, demanding no pre-requisites in musical experience from the participants.

Ashlee signing in the participants.

The only rule of Jungle Jam, repeatedly emphasised by Aya, was for everyone to LISTEN to one another and respond (or don’t) with their instruments. She advises: “When you feel things are stagnant, don’t be afraid to NOT play. Not playing is a very interesting way to hear other people.”

Aya explaining the rules of the game.
Moulding the dynamic and conducting hits for the first group.

The first group of registered played 3 pieces in total. The shinobue (Japanese bamboo flute) and shamisen (Japanese 3-stringed banjo) provided an interesting contrasting texture/colour. Aya started the piece with a little conducting but notably controlled it minimally so as to allow the improvisation to develop organically. She even got in on the fun with the melodica!

Improvisers from left to right: Andrew (Drums), Alvin (Shamisen), Jon (Bass), Zhan Seng (Xylophone), Yayoi (Tambourine), Javan (Keys), Hiroki (Guitar), Yuka (Flute) and Zacharie (Guitar).

“When I used to do this at BluJaz, we would do like one hour straight. The only thing that I always don’t know how to do is… end the song. For this particular ensemble, it was so funny because it ends… then somebody starts playing and another thing starts!”

“A certain story climaxes a few times, and both you and the audience know ‘yeah, we’ve talked about this already, so let’s not talk about that again.’ Improvisation is not random. There’s quite a lot of thinking and negotiation, and I think it’s beautiful.”

There was a short break at around 5.30 pm and Aya resumed the session with a brief explanation on how blues was borne of suffering by the enslaved and represented a lament of hard times as well as a vehicle for call-and-response improvisation. The second group featured additional performers and Aya kickstarted the new group by asking the participants to play a musical idea (motif) one after another.

Second group (from left to right): Namie (voice), Zhizhong (Keys), Adam (Bass), Eric (Guitar), Yayoi (Xylophone), Ashlee (Melodica) and Daniel (Drums).
Zhizhong really feeling it!
Aya getting in on the fun!

Among both groups, it was truly amazing how everyone paid attention to the preceding and succeeding lines, which ranged from anything like one note to more complex melodic/harmonic sequences. It was immensely interesting how there was a tendency for the pieces to explore and take on different rhythmic grooves, after starting off as sporadic noodling on individual instruments one after another.

Here is a video shot by Dylan Boudville

Though everyone had different musical sensibilities, there was an unspoken universal understanding of give and take, as well as the mature crafting of space and texture that seemed incongruent with the nascent nature of the instantly formed groups.

Towards the end of the second group’s performance, even the listeners alike chimed in with their voices to form a massive group of around 30 improvisers. What a spectacle to behold!

Group photo of those who stayed till the end.

As a participant, I initially wondered if the sheer size of the group would hamper our attempts to produce good music that had direction and dynamic/structural integrity. Jungle Jam showed us that if everyone was an immensely attentive and considerate listener, it was rather hard to NOT make good, spontaneous music and have a great time!

We Love Jazz SG has more awesome and engaging events in the works, so stay tuned for the next instalment of We Love Jazz Participatory Series and more!



[Report] AYASCHOOL: Jungle Jam (WLJ Participatory Series #1)

A small festival of jazz at The Arts House

Hi everyone,
This is Aya Sekine the founding director of WLJ SG. I have programmed a mini festival of jazz together with The Arts House at The Old Parliament which is coming up next Saturday 25th March.

Part of it is already fully booked before I’ve even publicised it (thanks to the enthusiasts!) but the outdoor program is free for all and you can lie down on the lawn – picnic time!

This is not an official part of We Love Jazz SG’s activity, but the way I programmed reflects our vision of the organisation.  Here is a small article I’ve written on it including the schedule of the events :


One of our director Dawn Ho is the official emcee, so the team will be hanging out there. Join us. See you next Saturday!



The next day on Sunday 26th is Ayaschool:Jungle Jam!  Register to experience collective improvisations : http://junglejam.peatix.com/


A small festival of jazz at The Arts House

[Event] AYASCHOOL: JUNGLE JAM (WLJ SG Participatory Series #1)

WE LOVE JAZZ SG presents our first quarterly event happening on 26 March (SUN), featuring our founding director, Aya Sekine’s own initiative – Ayaschool.

Join Aya for an afternoon of pure improvisation as she brings us on a journey through the jungle with music and lots of fun.

Space is limited so reserve your slot with us here now! More information on the event can be found in the peatix link.

WE LOVE JAZZ participatory series #1.jpg

[Event] AYASCHOOL: JUNGLE JAM (WLJ SG Participatory Series #1)

[Report] SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol. #7: The Time Is Now feat. Christy Smith

We Love Jazz Singapore’s very first SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions (SLSE) Vol. #7 is finally complete!

This is Dawn Ho, one of WLJ SG directors reporting.

What is SLSE, and how it all started.

SLSE is a series of musical events that was created by our founding director, Aya Sekine with her company Bon Goût Music (BGM). As of 2017 BGM generously handed the running of this series to WLJ SG – the idea behind the series is to brainstorm and curate performances that would be challenging, inspiring, refreshing to both the artists and the audience. We also hope to use the sessions to create bonding between artists and audiences by facilitating a dialogue and sharing session as part of the program. In this way, more people will better understand the art form as well as the artists in Singapore who work tirelessly to keep it real and alive.

Brainstorming for Vol.7

1st January 2017, post New Year’s Eve gig and over a very informal and frequent wine and brainstorming session (yes, we love to mix work with pleasure), our founding director, Aya suggested that I curate, facilitate and manage our very first session of SLSE Vol. #7. This being the very 1st SLSE music session WLJ would host, it had to be strong, something grassroots and significant to the history of jazz in Singapore and jazz as an art form itself.

Like ancient tribal rituals, where tradition and history is handed down verbally from one generation to the next, I wanted to feature someone who has lived through the history of jazz in Singapore and also in the United States where this music came from, someone whose life has always been dedicated to the art form and all it embodies. So I thought it would be perfect to have bassist Christy Smith as our guest for SLSE Vol. #7.


Christy Smith and Singapore

Christy Smith first arrived in Singapore in 1993 to play at the Somerset’s Bar at the Westin Hotel. Smith is an accomplished bassist, composer, arranger and lecturer whose artistry, passion and knowledge of jazz had touched countless of people here and around the world. Having chosen to make Singapore his home for 24 years, Smith has long been considered one of the cornerstones of jazz in Singapore.

He has watched the jazz scene here grow from its roots, all its trials and tribulations, the rise and fall of popularity of jazz, opening and closing of jazz clubs, the coming and going of artists in our community, generations of hopeful and young Singaporean jazz musicians grow up become the artists that they are today. He also grew up with jazz in the United States, where this art form was born. Listening to Satchmo and Duke Ellington when he was just 4 years old. Around the same age, he fell in love with the bass, even tried to steal his neighbours bass when he was 6! He finally started  playing the bass when he was 15.

With such a deep well of musical experience in him, I knew he would be the perfect guest to open our new series. And so it was, the 7th instalment  The Time Is Now feat. Christy Smith, was incepted.

The idea for ‘The Time Is Now’

It was simple. I wanted Christy in a setting which I have never seen him in, but which I knew he would be able to do so well – Solo Act: Bass & Voice.

I also wanted him to share the things he had shared with me when I first started out as an aspiring jazz singer, under his mentorship (truth is, I pretty much just stalked him every week at Harry’s Bar at the jam sessions on Sundays for advice and feedback).


For the musical part, I wanted him to select a repertoire of music that inspired him most through his musical journey.

And for the dialogue part of the evening, I had several burning questions that I wanted Christy to discuss; who are his musical heroes? What was his musical journey like? How did he start? Why does he continue? Does he ever get tired and when he does, what keeps him going? What is it like to be an African American jazz musician in Singapore and in the U.S.A? What is his perception of this art form in relation to African history and his roots? How do we overcome the idea that Jazz is a cultural art form borrowed from another country and not our own? How do we as Singaporeans identify with jazz?

What was the jazz scene like when he came to Singapore, how has it evolved and changed over the years and what can we do to keep it alive and make it better for all of us as a community?

The event day

After a good 2 months of preparation, planning and promotion from my awesome and tireless team at WLJ SG + Christy, we were ready for the show!! By the way, all of us are a full time “something else” – student, teacher, office professional, musician, plus a huge passion for grassroots development and promotion of the jazz and improvised music community in Singapore! The best team we could have ever wished for!

Our venue partner is the cosy and incredibly charming  The Music Parlour. Normally a jamming studio that occasionally also hosts events like ours.

Here’s us doing pre-show set up and sound check. Huge thank you to The Naked Grouse Whisky for being our beverage sponsor for the event!!

Guests starting to arrive and mingle over their whiskies, courtesy of The Naked Grouse. ☺


Our Karen working very hard at the bar making welcome drinks.


To kick off the show we began with a quick introduction about the works of  WLJ SG & Christy and then off we went to the music!

‘Close your eyes’, Christy said

Christy asked everyone to close their eyes and go back to a place when they first heard the music. Then he started to bow on his bass…. this sparked off a free improvisational bass solo piece, which stirred everyone in the room. Smith later explained that free playing is music that wants and needs to come out of us all.

He said that it would take him probably 2 hours of free playing to get to the “space” where he needs to be to truly be free playing like this. And went on to explain the relevance between freedom of improvisation through the exemplary works of John Coltrane.


Later on he invited our founding director, Aya to come to the stage to play a couple of tunes with him. One of which was “Lament” by the great jazz trombonist, JJ Johnson. After the tune, Christy went to explain how he came to love jazz as a child, he also talked about his musical heroes. Amongst them was Ray Charles. He highlighted the importance of the blues. Because this is where jazz comes from. It was born of slaves from Africa who had they drums and rituals taken from them. He explained how this music is “black classical music”, its roots.

Jazz as a ‘life style’

Having said that he emphasised that the symbol of the blues is a universal cry for comfort, love and peace. It is in all of us. And he went on to share his experience of being a jazz artist in Singapore, how he felt the universe is a melting pot of cultures, just like Singapore, New Orleans where jazz was born was mixed of several cultures that created jazz… Jazz is a lifestyle Christy says and it is a lifestyle that is lies beyond the boundaries of races and cultural diversities – doesn’t matter where you are in the world.


During intermission we all mingled and discussed our thoughts on the performance as well as dialogue topics regarding jazz and improvisation.


Yes we had merchandise for sale too!!


Besides the great and rare musical experience that Christy Rendered to us that night at SLSE, he also brought music insight on the current jazz climate compared to the past during the dialogue session.

‘We need to be the one to keep it alive’

When he 1st came to Singapore, there were many jazz bars and the scene was thriving, he has personally witnessed 2 cycles of rising and falling of the jazz scene in Singapore so far. Mentioning several now defunct jazz venues like Jazz at Southbridge, Harry’s Bar, Swings, Aubrey’s, Saxophone bar and Somerset’s Bar. He agrees that jazz bars are dropping like flies now. But he also remembers a time when jazz was thriving and Wynton Marsalis and his band were in town for week to play at a music festival here, and apart from their own concert, every night they were at Harry’s jamming with the house band – “And nobody came!!!” exclaimed Christy. Nobody cared enough – “these guys are the best in the world!! And yet no one came. It’s a shame.”… He warned us ”if we want this art form to thrive, then we as practitioners and as audiences need to be hungry and curious. Find out what’s out there and show up to support the arts. We need to be the one to keep it alive. We need to want it enough.”

Christy sharing on the ecosystem of our jazz scene in Singapore.


Some intense listening going on…..


The night left all of us who came inspired, invigorated. Christy’s words made us understand where this art for we love called jazz comes from, and how it became a part of the world. How it actually has always been a part of all of us. He highlighted that being closer to artistry and being closer to humanity is not much different. It’s all about love and compassion. And that it is important that we acknowledge this on an individual level as well as a community.

Huge thank you for all of you who came to the event! Your support and participation is invaluable to us.

We at WLJ SG really hope you had a wonderful time at our very first SLSE Vol. #7: The Time Is Now feat. Christy Smith.

We need YOU!

We would love to hear your feedback regarding our events and how we can improve them. So please do feel free to write to us : info@welovejazz.org

Please subscribe to our mailing list from here for more of these  [ from  here ]

What’s next

We Love Jazz Jam coming up end March! We will keep you posted via Facebook or here at our WLJ blog 🙂

Credits: Photography by Dylan Boudville

[Report] SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol. #7: The Time Is Now feat. Christy Smith

SPEAKUP! Speaklouder Talking Sessions Vol. 1


Speakup! Speaklouder Talking Sessions, Artwork by Weng Pixin

We Love Jazz SG proudly hosted our first sharing platform. Speakup! Speaklouder Talking Sessions (SUSL) is an every-3months-series of safe and open platform for sharing and discussing about our discipline, community or anything around jazz and improvised arts in Singapore. For the first instalment, we raised a topic that is generic maybe but most important; Sustainability of jazz & improvised music in Singapore.

Aya introduces We Love Jazz SG

This is the first event organized by We Love Jazz SG. Our Co-Director, Aya Sekine, gave a brief introduction about our organization to the participants of this talking session.


Dawn explains about Speakup! Speaklouder Talking Session

Why do we have Speakup! Speaklouder Talking Sessions? During the introduction, our Co-Director Dawn Ho explained, “As there are lot of people in the industry, doing it this way would create collective consciousness and hopefully make change. We can all play a part in the industry whether as practitioners, venue owners, etc.”

Rie (Dancer) shares her opinions
Our fellow musicians

Indeed, we are truly glad to hear different opinions and perspective from everyone who participated in this session. Details for the next Speakup! Speak Louder Talking Sessions will be released soon. For now, do let us know if you have a burning topic to discuss. We hope for more fruitful sessions that connects everyone in the Arts.




Do you have any topic you want to discuss? Please write to us : info@welovejazz.org



SPEAKLOW! Speakeasy Music Sessions Vol 7

The Time Is Now Feat. Christy Smith

17th Feb, 7pm @ The Music Parlour

Tickets: http://thetimeisnow.peatix.com


Illustrations :  Pixin



SPEAKUP! Speaklouder Talking Sessions Vol. 1

Our first performance event!


SPEAKLOW! SPEAKEASY (SLSE) Music Sessions Vol.7 :

The Time is Now

Feat. Christy Smith Lloyd Smith III
Facilitator: Dawn Ho


An exclusive up-close and personal evening featuring Christy Smith Lloyd Smith III, the bass player and vocalist who has been teaching us what jazz sounds like in Singapore. Come join us and hear his music. It’s about time to discover what it means to be Christy Smith. Don’t miss the date!
Ticketing is available in the link below:



Event is sponsored by The Naked Grouse

Cover art : Weng Pixin



Our first performance event!

We Love Jazz in Thailand!


The annual Thailand International Jazz Conference took place on 27th January to 29th January 2017. I have to say that 3 days of being immersed and surrounded by Jazz was amazing. We were blown away by the staggering amount of talent, passion and unwavering support that filled the beautiful Mahidol University during our 3-day stint.


Out of the great mix of local and international acts, we managed to catch Silpakorn University Jazz Orchestra, Nop Ponchamni & The Groovetomatix Band, Silpakorn Faculty Jazz Ensemble, Julian Lage Trio, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra Ft. Donald Harrison Quartet, Jack Thammarat, Denny Euprasert Quintet and Shai Maestro & Desmond White Group. Apart from performances, TIJC 2017 offered workshops during the day in their auditorium. We participated in workshops conducted by Zaccai Curtis (Piano), Magos Herrera (Voice), Jorge Roeder (Bass) and Julian Lage (Guitar).

Highlights of Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3

Day 1: We reached TIJC 2017 on Friday just in time for the evening session. On our way in, we heard students practicing at a nearby building. They sounded great! And it was such a lovely introduction into the Music Campus. We were greeted by a live performance by Rescue Project at the Oval Stage.

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Students practising.
Almost reaching the site! Behind Oval Stage.


Beautiful campus and the TIJC sign at the end of the waters.



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Main stage before the evening concert starts.

We went ahead to the main stage to catch Silpakorn University Jazz Orchestra and was instantly blown away! They incorporated spoken word, in Thai, in one of their arrangements. Natt Buntita, their faculty member also sang in a couple of songs during the set. The Silpakorn Faculty Jazz Ensemble also did a set later on in the evening. We heard beautiful arrangements of Thai & Jazz music with vocals by Natt Buntita who has an amazing voice that showcased both Jazz and Traditional Thai singing elements. A fresh sound indeed!


Silpakorn University Jazz Orchestra with Natt Buntita on Vocals


Between the two acts from Silpakorn University, there was a sudden gush of excitement bursting in the crowd as Nop Ponchamni & The Groovetomatix Band got up on stage. I learnt that Nop Ponchamni is a famous Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Host. His songs are well received by the Thais and I could hear many ladies singing along to some of his classic tunes. Looks like he is getting himself busy in the studio and will be releasing an album soon! An album with The Groovetomatix Band after 12 years! No wonder so much excitement in the crowd.

Nop Ponchamni & The Groovetomatix Band

The guest act for Day 1 was Julian Lage Trio. By now, all the TIJC helpers and organizers were done with stationing themselves at the appropriate booths and entrances. We see most of them crowding around the main stage, getting comfortable on the lawn in front of the stage. Everyone in the audience directed their attention to the stage and listen intently to the music provided by the talented trio. We witnessed and followed the interaction within the trio. Such a big crowd yet, we could hear silence in the audience when Julian Lage Trio went to almost minimal volume.

Julian Lage Trio


Day 2: Our day began with a glimpse of Keith Jackson’s Q&A session in his Trombone workshop. Zaccai Curtis Piano workshop was next. Zaccai Curtis plays in Donald Harrison Quartet. Below are three things I summarised from his workshop.

  1. Immerse yourself in the jazz culture. Watch live Jazz performances in your area as much as you can. Listen a lot and make sure you also play along to the record.
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Have a hero, copy them. Embody their lifestyle. Channel their spirit and strive to achieve or come very close to it.
  3. Transcribe. Write YOUR OWN real book!!!


Prince Mahidol Hall (2000 seater)

The first performance we went to for day 2 was by Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra Featuring Donald Harrison Band at Prince Mahidol Hall. The concert started with Old-Fashioned Melody, a composition written by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927-2016). Donald Harrison Quartet joined in after the intermission and performed Congo Square Movement 1 & 3 and also Be Bop, Selections from “Charlie Parker with Strings”. We were truly impressed by the orchestra which was really swinging!

After dinner, we made our way to the main stage where Jack Thammarat and his band were rocking out on stage! Each musician’s solo sounded so effortless and the crowd was definitely savouring every musical moment.

In contrast to the previous high energy performance by Jack Thammarat, Denny Euprasert showcased the sensitivities of Jazz. This set had an emotional undertone which was expressed through the music. The quintet played a composition written by the late King, Denny’s composition and ended with a Jazz standard in fast swing.

The last act of the night is Shai Maestro & Desmond White group. Shai Maestro took his time to get comfortable on stage. Organic start. Great compositions by Shai Maestro and Desmond White. Together with drummer Kush Abadey, they interacted so well! I was left speechless at the end of the night.

Shai Maestro & Desmond White Group


Day 3: As much as we wanted to stay till the end of the night, we also did not want to risk missing the flight back to Singapore. So, we had to give the evening concert a miss. But hey, we still managed to catch the workshops during the day!

First was Magos Herrera’s Vocal workshop. She spoke about the He for She campaign that she is a part of and is an ardent supporter of gender equality which she demonstrates through her music career. She offered to share some of her vocal warm ups and invited whoever’s interested to meet her after the workshop. Several vocalists and even non vocalists took the opportunity to learn from Magos Herrera.



Next was Jorge Roeder’s Bass workshop. Jorge Roeder used to play for Shai Maestro Trio when it was formed back in 2010! In TIJC 2017, he plays for Julian Lage Trio. A few things I note down from his workshop below.

Essentials of good Bass playing

  1. Time
  2. Pitch
  3. Feel

Time and feel are interrelated and good time doesn’t necessarily mean good feel. Time is relative. Learn to play metronomic and flexible time.
Walking, two feel and broken time are devices that you can use to create momentum and direction. He advises us to control our need to fill up every space in the music. He invited a guitar player whom I believe is a participant from the TIJC camp to play with him as he explained the above.


Lastly, we sat in Julian Lage’s Guitar workshop. He began by playing Darn That Dream, a Jazz standard by Jimmy Van Heusen. He talked us through his practice and composition process as well as shared how he sees music and life. He had a srong emphasis on the word ‘love’ rather than ‘like’. For example, begin your practice by choosing a song you LOVE and not just a song you like. I love the part where he told us to be friends with our mistakes and to learn to be friends with our mistakes, we should try playing a song as bad as we can and play it even worse! This will help us realise what we are meant to do and be okay with the mistakes we might make in future. I find that really interesting!

Julian Lage. ‘Love’ machine

I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE all Jazz enthusiasts to look out for workshops/camps/festivals and try your best to attend and participate in any one of them.

Personally, TIJC 2017 was an inspiring experience that gave me the impetus to work as hard as I can, not only to hone my craft but also to lend a helping hand in cultivating a society of learners and advocates of the Arts. I hope this article helps you in some way! I tried my best to note down important points in the workshops and also to share (in words and pictures) the evening concert experience.

Aya and I with Yuri and Natt from Silpakorn Music Faculty


Spot some familiar faces? (:
A wonderful sight to wrap up our TIJC 2017 experience! Dixieology with Bangkok Swing.

There you go.

Our 3-day TIJC 2017 experience summed up within a blog post. Feel free to reach out to us in the comment box below!




– Namie

We Love Jazz in Thailand!