From left to right: Bassist Fabian Lee, flutist Rit Xu, New York-based guest trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, pianist Cheryl Ann Spencer and drummer Tamagoh.
2 September 2020
Singapore’s jazz scene has just gotten more vibrant with jazz band Evolution Quartet’s new album. Launched today on Spotify and Apple Music, Evolution’s debut jazz album Reflections offers a taste of life in all sorts of high notes ranging from an ode to the jazz scene and love for papa to shoe-shopping and magical carpet rides. Recorded in the studio, Reflections features Cheryl Ann Spencer on piano, Tamagoh on drums, Rit Xu on the flute, Fabian Lee on the double bass while the celebrated and prominent New York-based trumpeter Alex Sipiagin contributed as Reflections’ guest artiste. The band overcame the challenges of differing geographies, time zones and work commitments and finally put together the album after a three year
artistic endeavour. Join Evolution Quartet on a journey through diverse, melodic and moving soundscapes in the Reflections album.
Cheryl Ann Spencer
“We are really thrilled to be able to launch this album as it is a culmination of our efforts from playing together, embarking on the creative process and exploring the idea of original compositions. We love jazz and really hope we can contribute to Singapore’s jazz scene, making it more conducive for everyone to enjoy, appreciate, and even learn about this genre of
music,” says Evolution Quartet band leader Cheryl Ann Spencer.
Guest artiste: Alex Sipiagin
Debut album – Reflections
Reflections: A Taste of Life
This composition has Cheryl reflecting on her career as a female jazz pianist and also her time spent pursuing Jazz Music as a major at LaSalle College of Arts. Self-reflection is important in this journey of growth – when coupled with pain, one progresses and moves forward to a better place. She did not think she would get to do this in her 40s as it was never in the
pipeline; she remains thankful for the opportunity and to be able to overcome the challenges of balancing motherhood, family and ultimately giving her best in her major.
The late American jazz pianist McCoy Tyner was the inspiration behind this piece.
Rainbow (Arco Iris in Portuguese)
Rainbow – a sign of miracles and promise – is a bossa nova rhythm inspired by the late Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and father of the genre. The tune’s bossa nova beat features veteran drummer Tamagoh’s virtuosity and instantly transports the audience to Rio de Janeiro.
Shoe Shopping (Comprar Sapatos in Portuguese)
Cheryl has a real passion for shoes and loves playing this cheerful samba-inflected tune because she feels as though she could be out on the streets of Europe shopping for shoes – as far as her dreams and imagination take her.
This eponymous song is inspired by the Evolution Garden of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a wonderland of moss, ferns, rocks and cycads which makes a great setting for a morning jog. Fabian’s rhythmic and powerful groove on the double bass sets the scene for flutist Rit Xu to build the dynamics of the piece, taking listeners on an emotional journey through modern
jazz and harmonics. It reflects the evolution of the band, pushing boundaries beyond their comfort zone to be a stronger band.
Evolution Quartet had the vast, cinematic Arabian desert in mind when they created this composition for the flute. It is tranquil but also mystical. Improvising over Phrygian scale tones allows for the extraction of dark colour and ethnic flavour; one also detects a slight tension in the C section. The flute takes us on a magical carpet ride over large swathes of the desert and sauntering camels before a graceful landing at the end of the piece.
My Favourite Things
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical The Sound of Music’s My Favourite Things is presented in a jazz rendition by Evolution Quartet, with every note a reminder of the Broadway hit set in the Austrian alps. This song, likely close to the hearts of many, has always been a bucket list for Cheryl to record as she grew up listening to it.
This is a melancholic and pensive tribute to Cheryl’s father, the former President of the Singapore Music Teachers Association and formerly a student at the Vienna Conservatory. Cheryl’s formative years in the Teo household were imbued by the late Mr Teo Chin Huat’s love for classical music and jazz. He used to take his children to concerts – from local ones and even to the opera in Vienna – so the joy of music was experienced at a very young age and free from the pressure of formal music exams. Having recognised Cheryl’s love – and aptitude – for jazz, his last words for Cheryl was an advice for her to pursue an education in jazz. Although the late Mr Teo had already departed, his melody lives on in every key. Jazz artiste James Flynn wrote the lyrics for My Papa and in time to come, a version of this song with vocals will be released.
From left to right: Rit Xu, Tamagoh, Fabian Lee
Evolution Quartet’s band members
The tightly-knit jazz community provided an opportunity for Evolution Quartet’s band members to come together. Starting first as friends playing at pianist Cheryl Ann Spencer’s recital, and then recently at Maduro, the band soon took shape as she rallied everyone together as a collective so they could start playing her original compositions. In understanding and
highlighting the character of each band member, Cheryl truly plays to her band’s strength.
Band leader Cheryl recently completed her second degree in Jazz Music at the LaSalle College of Arts. Drummer Tamagoh is a veteran in the scene having performed with Jeremy Monteiro as early as 1989 and counts Terumasa Hino, Carmen Bradford and Eldee Young as musicians he has had the pleasure of playing with since 1994. Flutist, composer, educator and recording
artist, Rit Xu, a leading light of his generation, is best known for having been awarded Best Jazz Artist at the National Flute Association competition – the first Southeast Asian to win a solo jazz competition in the United States. Jazz bassist Fabian Lee, who plays the double bass and electric bass, completes the sound of Evolution Quartet.
Evolution Quartet is a homegrown jazz band formed by the love of jazz and the wish to spread the love for it through performance and jazz education. Led by band leader and jazz pianist Cheryl Ann Spencer, the quartet consists of three other members: drummer Tamagoh; flutist, composer, educator and recording artist, Rit Xu; and jazz bassist Fabian Lee.
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