What makes jazz music enthralling and enriching? Arguably, creativity, improvisation and being engaged in the present moment.
It was exactly this essence and spunk that characterised the virtual JASS Benefit Gala on 14 March, organised by the Jazz Association (Singapore), also known as JASS, to mark its fifth anniversary.
Founded by Singapore’s “King of Swing” Jeremy Monteiro, it is the first Singapore charity dedicated to developing jazz education and expanding the jazz arts community. The annual JASS Gala is the association’s primary fundraiser.
Last year, it also added a new pillar to its work — supporting local jazz musicians impacted by crisis with short-term financial aid.
Original plans for a live gala last July were scuppered by the pandemic, but in the spirit of improv, Sunday’s virtual do — themed Let There Be Love — was given a digital transformation replete with an extended reality backdrop of a sprawling garden in spring.
Emceed by CNA anchor Glenda Chong and Monteiro, with performances headlined by Dutch jazz diva Laura Fygi, the affair was streamed into the homes of gala table buyers and their guests.
Yet despite the home settings, many made the most of the evening by dressing to the nines and donning their favourite hats and fascinators.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong was guest of honour, and in his welcome address quoted American composer George Gershwin: “Life is a lot like jazz. It’s best when you improvise.”
He added: “2020 certainly brought out the best in many of us in Singapore. Our arts and culture continue to be important for Singapore and Singaporeans, and perhaps even more so during these times of crisis and uncertainty. The work which you do provides respite, gives us hope and uplifts our spirits.”
In a pre-recorded segment, Fygi, accompanied by the JASSO Ensemble and Monteiro on piano, took audiences through a repertoire of popular jazz standards including, Love Is Here To Stay; Quizás, Quizás, Quizás; and Moon River.
Those watching the inch-wide Zoom video displays, may have even noticed some attendees dancing along at home.
In all, table sales, a silent auction and outright donations raised some $650,000, noted Monteiro towards the end of the gala. The funds will go towards JASS’ numerous initiatives that support jazz education and our local talents.
In an apt finale, Fygi performed the Louis Armstrong favourite What a Wonderful World. “Whatever goes on in the world, continue to love each other. After all, it’s a wonderful world,” she reminded one and all.