TO THE untrained ear, music should either be too familiar or tremendously catchy to grab attention. For the UST Jazz Band, the latter proved true as they wowed the crowd during the 5th Manila Jazz Festival last June 15 at the Grand Sunset Pavilion of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

A total of 15 groups and individuals participated, all of whom are advocates of jazz and its offshoots: jump swing, which is an up-tempo music fueled by dance; bebop, where dissonances are used as key melody notes; avant-garde, where loose harmony and tempo are employed; fusion, which is a hybrid of jazz and rock using electronic instruments; and even funk, which is analogous to rhythmic harmony.

The event’s roster of musicians included the BAT Project, Thomas Enhco & the Jazz Angels, Brass Munkeys, Radioactive Sago Project, Sino Sikat?, the Jewelmer Jazz Band, UP Jazz Ensemble, and no less than the Queen of Philippine Jazz, Ms. Verni Varga. They performed before a full house of music lovers of various ages and nationalities.

The UST Jazz Band was among the big bands chosen by festival sponsor Jewelmer International Corporation. Although a festival newcomer, the 21-strong UST Jazz Band exceeded the audience’s expectations after flaunting an exciting performance, which seemingly intimidated other participating university ensemble.

But as conductor and musical director Roger Llado puts it, the event was "not a competition but a night of sharing talents." Llado, an associate professor from the Conservatory of Music, led and trained the UST Jazz Band weeks before the event to enhance the group’s dexterity, enabling them to level with the other reputable performers on the stage that night.

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"Our group’s asset during the festival was our balanced choice of musical pieces, from fusion to fast Latin and bebop jazz," Llado said.
The festival repertoire of the UST Jazz Band included the "Concerto de Aranuez," "I Got Rhythm," "Manteca," and an original composition by Llado’s former student, Naldy Rodriguez, entitled "Golden Tale."

Another edge of the UST Jazz Band was the playful aura they exuded. Llado literally "danced to the music," showing his enjoyment over jazz. The effect was so contagious that the crowd jammed along with the band.

And all that jazz

Since its golden age during the 20’s, jazz has seen a continuously increasing number of followers. Jazz easily penetrated the Philippine music scene, even at a time when oriental influences were still prevalent, through the presence of US bands and records in the country.

Upon Llado’s initiative, the UST Jazz Band was organized in 1987 through the efforts of the late Dean Alejandra Atabug, with veteran saxophonist Eddie Sangcap as its music director. This was in response to the rise of jazz as an important musical avenue. Since then, the band has been a stable for music students who wish to hone their skills in jazz.

When Sangcap left the country to join the Singapore Radio and TV Network Orchestra, Llado, who himself is a master trumpet player adept in both classical and jazz music, took over as the music director.

Since then, the UST Jazz Band has been very active in the local and international jazz scene. Locally, the band has consistently participated in the Manila Chamber Orchestra Foundation Musical Festival, the Sampung Daliri, atbp., at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Jazz Festival, and at the University?s Christmas concerts and music camps. Last year, they performed at the International Music and Arts Festival in Hsin-Kang, Taiwan, as the Philippines’ sole representative.

Crossing boundaries

Aside from the UST Jazz Band, other Thomasians also took part in the 5th Manila Jazz Festival such as music professor Tots Tolentino, the country’s most distinguished saxophone player; music professor Ruben Reyes, who plays the electric bass guitar; and voice professor Patrice Cuevas who left the crowd mesmerized with her angelic soprano voice.

As the UST Jazz Band continue on their musical journey, followers will definitely see more of them in coming music festivals.

"Our performance got heart-warming raves so we are definitely looking forward to performing at the 6th Manila Jazz Festival next year," Llado said.



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