When jazz and classical music edify

Flutist Immanuel Nico Dioneda with pianist Dingdong Fiel. Vintage Bolling and edifying Poulenc. Photo by Richard Sy-Facunda.

It’s a fact that Filipinos don’t easily take to jazz as they immerse joyfully in classical music.

A Manila jazz festival attracts genuine jazz fans and a few curious souls but the truth is you can’t find recognizable faces from the classical scene.

It used to be that a few jazz bars flourished with a jazz nightingale named Sandra Viray doing the honors. But her gigs are few and far between.

In the past, jazz exponent and music critic Lito Molina kept the jazz sound alive and with the late jazz queen Annie Brazil lending her presence in some of these jazz gigs.

With Molina and Brazil gone, the sound of jazz is receding as a distant memory.

To be sure, Cecile Licad paid tribute to jazz icon Louis Armstrong when she joined the ensemble of acclaimed jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in providing live music for the world premiere of the film Louis directed by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond. The film -- created in the style of a silent film and exploring the early days of jazz --had its world premiere at Chicago’s Symphony Center on August 25, 2010.

When a hint of jazz and a dash of classical merged in the 1975 recording of jazz composer and pianist Claude Bolling with flutist Jean Pierre Rampal, patronage for jazz and classical merged half-way and gained world-wide audience approval.

The classic 1975 recording of Bolling Suites for Flute and Piano. The recording had instant cult following through the years.

Sunday night at Manila Pianos, music lovers heard six of the seven Bolling Suites for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio in an evening of French music.

It featured flutist Immanuel Nico Dioneda with pianist Dingdong Fiel who opened with a well-nuanced Sancan and Poulenc sonatas.

It was just as well that flutist Dioneda changed from barong to casual attire in the last part of the program in time for the Bolling Suites.

With no bass player, it’s just the flute and piano doing the honors for the six suites (No. 6 “Versatile” taken out).

The opener ("Baroque and Blue") set the mood for the evening. Pianist Fiel didn’t just play the notes; he swayed to it with the right jazz flavor to make the audience realize this was a crossover night.Dioneda all at once reciprocated and unleashed a pure, well-fleshed out sound with all the delicate airy details present.

Since one has not heard the second suite (“Sentimentale”) live in a long, long time, it was pure nostalgia at latest hearing.

There is something so casually touching about the piece that Dioneda and Fiel delivered with ease. The rapport was real and deeply felt.

Up to the finale suite (“Veloce”), the flute and piano duo were at their best hurdling the tricky jazz parts with dispatch.

The flute sound remained pure and inspired and the piano reciprocated with equal technical finesse highlighting the impressionistic parts.

With the flute ending the last suite with one percussive blow, it was a truly enchanting night of French music.

The poster of the silent film that paid tribute to jazz icon Louis Armstrong with live music by Cecile Licad and Wynton Marsalis.

For Dioneda, jazz is an invitation to freedom and indeed a very liberating experience. “With jazz flavor required of the piece, I can actually do some embellishments that you can’t apply in classical music. Doing it with ease and a sense of freedom, you make the music more spontaneous and beautiful. And it feels good.”

For Fiel, part of the good preparation for an all-French program was analyzing the compositional style of each composer and trying to make sense out of the smallest details they have written on the music. “We also treated the melodic lines like how it should be sung since one thing the composers had in common was that their music was inspired by melodic associations of the human voice. What I love doing is discovering not only the other works available by that particular composer but also learning about his life, relationships and musical influences. This helps me better understand him and his music.”

For those who have yet to discover Sancan, Poulenc and Bolling, Fiel begins his piece of advice by saying the works of those composers are one of the most complete music ever written. “Their music encompasses a wide plethora of emotions and colors. Listening to them will make you appreciate well written music more and allow you to discover emotions and colors that are not very dominant in other composers.”

Nevertheless, flutist and pianist agree on one thing: “Attention to the tiniest details makes the best interpretation.”


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