USA: All that jazz!

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Words and photos by Dionesio C. Grava
First posted in

For a while those Anglo features fooled me. But Mitch Franco has a Filipina mother, the former recording artist Gemma Franco, and that makes him Filipino. Good-looking and tall for his 19 years, Mitch is a crooner who would not be out of place in any kind of musical programs. His “Fly Me to the Moon,” for example, made the ladies and the gays in the audience swoon.

Mitch was among the young artists featured in the first half of the two-part 2012 edition of “JAZZMOPOLITAN ALL STARS: An Evening of Jazz Collaboration with Filipino American Performers” held in the famous Ford Amphitheater just off the 101 freeway in Hollywood August 25.

The evening event opened with a ukelele performance by Abe Lagrimas, Jr. He is adept with the mini guitar as he is with drums and vibraphone, it is said. He was followed to the stage by Jaclyn Rose, whose singing style also includes funk, soul and Afrobeat. Jaclyn also pitched in her other advocacy, the Rose Movement, a campaign with a goal to keep dreams alive.

Krystle Tugadi’s interpretation of The Beatle’s “Come Together” displayed her expertise in mixing jazz and pop and r&b of which she is well known of. Ditto with VJ Rosales, an alumni of CSU Long Beach’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, who is also versatile in infusing jazz into pop, funk and rhythm & blues. He had his own band consisting of Sean Fitzpatrick, Nicole Vanderpart, Anthony Lopez, Andy Waddell and Dan Kaneyuri.

The singers did a second round of performances that included the pairing of Mitch and Ms. Tugadi and Abraham and VJ.

It was already 8:15 p.m. when the second group — they were tagged the pros — took over after intermission. Mon David was his impish best with a kind of scat singing that didn’t fail to draw guffaws. Even with serious songs such as “Imagine” and “Nasaan Ako Naroroon” he managed to modify them in a way that pleased many. His range of voice and wit made easy work of songs even as he sometimes randomly inserted words of his own that created havoc on the lyrics. A graduate of the UP College of Music, Mon won the London International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2006.

Obviously Mon’s favorite musical partner for the evening was Michael Paulo, a most amazing saxophonist if ever I had seen or heard one. He moved, joked and performed with such a finesse that betrays international quality. Michael grew up in a musical family (his Filipino father is a pianist, his Japanese mother a singer and his siblings all play instruments). He owns the Apaulo Music Productions that produces and manages entertainment events. He was assisted by his band consisting of Kimo Cornwell, Dave Inamine, Sergio Gonzalez and Fred Schreuders.

Also a whiz with the saxophone is Ner De Leon. I had seen De Leon’s first performances many years ago and glad that he had maintained the edge that never disappoints. He is a graduate of the Berkeley College of Music.

Becca Godinez is the accomplished performer who had done the full gamut of entertainment genres (television, film, theater, music and performance). More than jazz, however, Christian music is closest to her heart. I think. Her ability to speak, write and sing in several languages has contributed to her crossover appeal. She rendered a couple of Portuguese songs during the event.

Hailed as Queen of Philippine Jazz is Louie Reyes and so, do we need to say more? She used to be with the popular New Minstrels and is reportedly conducting voice lessons for “American Idol” wannabes.

Then there was Alma Silos, a veteran singer who is celebrating a return to live performance. And, not the least, Eduardo “Tateng” Katindig, Jr. of the keyboard fame. Tateng had been in the U.S. since 2000 and had played with many great artists. A much applauded number was a medley by Alma, Becca and Louie. Then Louie and Michael and Tateng also did a number together.

“JAZZMOPOLITAN” ALL STARS” was presented by PAE Live! The Saturday event was the conclusion of the yearly jazz presentation that began in 2010. Producers were Ted I. Benito and Rex A. Sampaga. The latter also directed. The show was hosted by Giselle Tongi.

A portion of the show’s proceeds will be donated to the ABS-CBN Foundation International’s “Bantay Bata” welfare program, it was said.

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