Cover Jeremy Monteiro, Cem Azak, Susan Peh, Edwin Tong, Sandra Chang, Edmund Lam, Tho Gea Hong, Jeffrey Liew

The past year has been tough for everyone, especially those in the arts, but thankfully local jazz musicians impacted by the pandemic can apply for short-term financial aid from the Jazz Association Singapore (Jass). This is a new pillar that has been added to the work of the charity that is dedicated to developing jazz education, excellence and outreach in Singapore, as well as strengthening cultural ties with the rest of the world—all for the love of jazz.

So how fitting it is that Let There Be Love is the theme of the Jass Benefit Gala this year, which is also in celebration of its 5th-anniversary milestone. International jazz diva Laura Fygi set off the festivities with the jazz standard Love is Here to Stay. Fygi, who is based in Amsterdam, was seamlessly joined on the “performance stage” by Singapore’s King of Swing Jeremy Monteiro—who is also the executive director and music director of Jass—and an ensemble of musicians from the Jazz Association Singapore Orchestra (Jasso) by way of augmented reality.

Guest of honour Edwin Tong, the minister for culture, community and youth and second minister for law, probably said it best in his opening speech where he quoted American composer George Gershwin (who coincidentally was behind the aforementioned song): “Life is a lot like jazz … it’s best when you improvise.”

Tong commended Jass for its creativity and resilience, as one of the first arts organisations here to pivot and go digital with its Jass@Home live stream performance celebrating the Unesco International Jazz Day 2020 last April.

(Related: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the Jazz Association Singapore)

Jass’ efforts in elevating the jazz scene in Singapore is also thanks to the generous support and contributions of its patrons, who have “turned up” at the fundraiser in their gala best, with many getting “head-dressed”—fascinators, turban, hats, the works!—in a nod to dressing from the waist up for Zoom engagements.

Fygi, Monteiro and the Jasso ensemble later returned on screen with a repertoire of well-loved jazz tunes, including Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), Blue Moon and Over the Rainbow, keeping guests entertained as they enjoyed a specially curated dinner and wines that were delivered to their homes. Jass also presented the 2021 Jass Ambassador Award to the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass), Neo Group, Albert Chiu and Stephen Riady, along with appreciation awards to select individuals and organisations. 

Five ladies and one gentleman were selected by Tatler Singapore for the Best Headdress Awards before the evening culminated in Fygi’s mesmerising rendition of What a Wonderful World. Her parting words for everyone: “Whatever happens in the world, continue to love one another.”

About $650,000 was raised from the evening to help Jass continue its good work in the development of jazz in Singapore.