The Jazz Association Singapore (Jass), led by maestro Jeremy Monteiro, turns five this year—and in that short time, it has accomplished so much, including promoting jazz to a wider audience and nurturing local talents. We meet four young musicians who are set to take the jazz scene in Singapore into the next stage. In the first of a four-part series, Jass associate music director Weixiang Tan discusses his role within the organisation and bringing the younger musicians into the fold

He may have had a late start in jazz but Weixiang Tan more than makes up for it through sheer hard work.

“I’ve always held that curiosity and obsession are necessary traits for the aspiring jazz musician—asking a ton of questions, which leads to a ton of answers and a ton of work, which you’d happily do because of your obsession,” shares Tan, who started piano lessons at age 15 but it wasn’t until he graduated from law school at the National University of Singapore (NUS) that he pursued music seriously. “And this never really goes away as you ascend your personal musical Parnassus, but perhaps the goals get loftier.”

He counts Thelonius Monk alumnus Victor Gaskin as his mentor. “I think the most important connection that I’ve made through my interaction with him was that music is meant to be felt, and acquiring that ‘emotional weight’ requires deliberation, introspection and research to find out what works, why it works and how you can replicate it as meaningfully and authentically as possible.”

As the associate music director of the Jazz Association Singapore (Jass), Tan works primarily with its Youth Orchestra (Jassyo!), “essentially bringing the younger musicians into our fold”. One of the organisation’s signature events is the Lion City Youth Jazz Festival. He hopes to continue “Jass’ growth to the grassroots and do more outreach to the young and the underserved. We’d like jazz to percolate everywhere, as Singapore deserves to be a beacon of jazz in this part of the world”.

Don’t miss: 5 Things You Didn't Know About the Jazz Association Singapore

FIRST LOVE

“I fell in love with jazz in my law school days, when I was playing in a big band. I was surrounded by friends who were equally passionate about playing jazz—we weren’t really very good then, but we more than made up for it with enthusiasm. In fact, some of us eventually turned professional, and are doing remarkably well internationally.”

MAKING MUSIC

“My primary instrument is the piano. I’ve spent the bulk of my musical existence on it, and it’s come to a point where I have a very personal connection to the instrument. It’s exactly what it reads on the label: able to play an extraordinarily large range of dynamics and articulation, it’s a direct and visceral window into my musical world. I’ve also always played brass instruments, and I’ve settled on the trumpet. It’s a really fun instrument that’s so difficult yet rewarding—it’s like a second childhood for me, learning to play an instrument at age 42.”

LION CITY YOUTH JAZZ FESTIVAL

“It’s a great concept which pairs living jazz legends with our Singapore youth musicians on the same stage, performing after a whole week of intensive rehearsals. It’s a fantastic way to accelerate learning for our youth, and also a really valuable route to networking. Our youth musicians also get to know what level these legends are at, and what is needed for them to rise to that level eventually.”

In case you missed it: Jeremy Monteiro Brings Together Musicians For A Livestream Concert To Celebrate International Jazz Day

IF NOT JAZZ

“I’ve been called a good home cook. If you speak food (or drink), you are my friend. If I weren’t a jazz musician, I’d probably still be involved with the art form in some way as music is part of who I am as a person. That said, if I were for some reason forbidden to be a jazz musician, I’d probably open a hawker stall—I can see myself enjoying that a lot. What will I be cooking? I make a mean char kway teow—with lots of cockles.”

ON REPEAT

Jazz standard:If I Were A Bell by Keith Jarrett from his Up for It album. It’s relatively nondescript, messy even, but so much beauty if you know where to look. A close listen will have you questioning, ‘What’s in this song that’s making me feel something?’”

Read more: Singapore’s First Virtual Jazz Gala Raises $650,000

New release: “I’ve been watching a lot of DOMi and JD Beck on YouTube. They represent a new generation of jazz musicians who can play anything, all without releasing a single album. Check out Sniff, which is essentially an endorsement video for a keyboard manufacturer.”

Wildcard: “I’ve been listening to Ginger Root—he’s the first Showa-inspired artiste I’ve heard who embraces the cheesy irony that we feel reminiscing about the good old days.”

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  • PhotographyGan
  • Art DirectionJana Tan
  • GroomingBenedict Choo
  • ImagesJazz Association Singapore
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