Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Aya Honda (Oma Sound's manager), Isao Suzuki (bass-player extraordinaire), and Antares at the Miri International Jazz Festival, 9-10 May 2008 (photo by Yong Pik Sieng)

Just got back from Miri, Sarawak, after a full-on few days at the Miri International Jazz Festival as its new Artistic Director. This being my very first time getting involved with organizing a major music festival, I had to learn the ropes pretty damn quick. As the bands began arriving, followed by media guests, preparations went into full swing and the excitement began to build up. It was during the first sound check that the magic began. Watching 75-year-old Isao Suzuki coax the most passionate melodies from his cello bass, accompanied by some of the youngest jazz virtuosos I've ever seen, I knew this was going to be a memorable event. And, for sure, it was!

Closing the first night's program was Oma Sound, led by the immortal god of music, Isao Suzuki who is a true wizard on his instrument. Isao told me he was in New York in the early 1970s and performed with Sun Ra (left) who really liked his approach to bass-playing. The admiration was mutual and Sun Ra became a major influence on Isao Suzuki. Although a few in the audience seemed initially bemused by Oma Sound's "free jazz" they were soon spellbound by the pure musicianship, especially the expressionist piano stylings and sublime bass solos. During the encore Oma Sound transported the hushed crowd to a entirely different dimension - it was a truly a sublime and transcendental experience!