Sunday, January 29, 2012

Music Review: Ronald Tomas Nonet, A Big band Jazz style with a Pinoy touch

Reviving the Beatnik era!

 Whenever I listen to a new jazz cut on the radio and eventually discovered the artist is Pinoy, I’d once again feel astounded on how Filipino Jazz artists have developed and became at par, or even exceed, with the world’s standards today. In my last CD review, I focused the spotlight to Johnny Alegre’s Human Folk. A unique ensemble of great talents fused together creating a new jazz form – the Pinoy jazz.

This time, I would like to highlight another Pinoy jazz group which applied a distinctly unique twist on how big band jazz sounds like. Ronald Tomas Nonet, a promising and emerging jazz band today, has come up with a brand new self-released CD entitled Travels. 

Travels is a collection of jazz music inspired by places in the Philippines, its people and its culture. Much of these were the baseline of the leader of the band Mr. Ronald Tomas, former sax player of the band Parliament Syndicate. All of Ronald Tomas Nonet’s music was creatively rendered like in the 50’s jazz type era; a jazz timeline where Miles Davies, Thelonius Monk and Bill Evans once dominated the radio air bands and the stages of Carnegie Hall in Manhattan during the heydays of Jazz. This CD has definitely captured that feel.

Let me start with the first cut, “Chili-Con Pasyon”. Whenever I listen to this, I can’t help not to visualize a segment of the early James Bond movies in a climactic car chase. What makes it unique is that it fuses the melody of a very Pinoy culture which is the traditional Lenten chant – Pasyon. Who could ever imagine that such melody can be transformed into jazzy upbeat music? You have to listen to it to see what I mean!

Another creative rearrangement is “Joselynang Baliwag”. It is a reincarnation of an old kundiman song to a syncopated jazzy cut. However, this type is something that can be appreciated by a more mature jazz aficionado. The off-key melody with seemingly clashing chords of the horns may not be as soothing to the ears of some newbie jazz fans. For them, it might sound as if it’s out of tune but it’s not. It is simply jazz.

Another movie soundtrack sounding is the e“Duyog Sunrise”. Listening to it, I can’t help but recall some old B-movies I viewed on cable whenever I listen to this one. From a fast track, the music mellowed down to a cool easy listening cut called “Ground Zero”. This piece brings my mind to places where a metal pole, top hat and fishnet stockings of a dancer may complement the music.

“Na Tutulog Ka Na Ba Sinta” is a great tribute not only to this not-so-old Filipino song, but more so to the writer themselves, Antonio Suarez and the great Levi Celerio. This romantic serenade cut was even made more beautiful with Tomas’ arrangements.

Other unique cuts like “Pandango Palawan”, “Ramut”, “Dum Da Dee Dum”, “Sinulugang Taktak” are included in this album. The Ronald Tomas Nonet is just one of the few jazz big-band ensembles in the country today that I am thankful to have come to discover as it is quite notable for its unique rendition of Filipino music that creatively transcends to jazz masterpieces.  

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