Casey Abrams lights up Pe­nang

Casey Abrams is en­joy­ing play­ing mu­sic on his own terms as wit­nessed at his Pe­nang con­cert.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­SON CHEAH en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

FAST-RIS­ING Amer­i­can singer-song­writer, multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist Casey Abrams, 22, can be quite the char­ac­ter, both on and off stage.

The Amer­i­can Idol Sea­son 10 alumni (where he fin­ished sixth) isn’t one to con­form to the main­stream. His whis­tle stop ap­pear­ance to open the re­cent 10th Pe­nang Is­land Jazz Fes­ti­val (with a stand­alone con­cert) did raise some eye­brows of whether he truly fit­ted the bill as a jazz artiste.

Upon at­tend­ing Abram’s work­shop and his con­cert at Bayview Beach Re­sort’s ballroom on Dec 5 (the fes­ti­val’s home­ground since its in­cep­tion), the scruffy-look­ing singer proved that he was more than ca­pa­ble of han­dling any au­di­ence, jazz or not.

For a start, his own mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion is pretty sig­nif­i­cant, and lis­ten­ing to him per­form a cou­ple of Nat King Cole clas­sics L.O.V.E. and Na­ture Boy on just dou­ble bass, at the be­gin­ning of the work­shop (just be­fore his night con­cert), did make us won­der why he would have needed an out­let like Amer­i­can Idol to fur­ther his ca­reer.

In Pe­nang, the multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist re­vealed that he plays bass, pi­ano, gui­tar, drums, clar­inet, saz, ac­cor­dion, and tri­an­gle.

“I also like the si­tar,” he quipped to the small but at­ten­tive work­shop crowd as he talked about his hair, his jazz the­ory and im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

More than just a jazz-trained mu­si­cian, Abrams also lis­tens to any­thing from Queen to Tena­cious D and AC/DC.

Abrams re­leased a self-ti­tled de­but last year in which he cowrote, sang, played bass, acous­tic gui­tar, drums, Wurl­itzer elec­tric pi­ano and even recorder on the al­bum.

“I wrote about 20 songs for my al­bum, com­pos­ing on gui­tar and pi­ano, my na­ture,” he re­vealed.

It’s now been close to a yearand-a-half since the epony­mous de­but al­bum and, dur­ing a short chat af­ter the work­shop, Abrams said: “I re­ally still love it. And the fact that peo­ple have bought it, I can be sat­is­fied.”

Born in Austin, Texas, Abrams spent his early years in Chicago, and later moved to Cal­i­for­nia to at­tend Idyll­wild Arts Academy.

An ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­si­cian, Abrams stud­ied clas­si­cal bass, pi­ano, im­pro­vi­sa­tion, mu­sic his­tory and par­tic­i­pated in nu­mer­ous jazz en­sem­bles. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, he con­tin­ued his stud­ies in mu­sic at the Univer­sity of Colorado at Boul­der.

The jazz in­flu­ence was al­ready planted early in life.

“My par­ents lis­tened to a lot of jazz (and Beach Boys),” he men­tioned about his melodic sense.

Abrams gained world­wide recog­ni­tion when he au­di­tioned and be­came a fi­nal­ist in the Amer­i­can Idol 2011 sea­son.

Thanks to his dis­tinc­tively orig­i­nal voice and mu­si­cal abil­ity, Abrams stood out and showed the world his di­verse tal­ents. So why Amer­i­can Idol, in­deed?

“I watched the pre­vi­ous years edi­tion and I just felt that I could at least do bet­ter than them (the batch of fi­nal­ists in sea­son nine),” he rem­i­nisced. Back to the con­cert, it was ap­par­ent that this young man was made for the stage.

It was an in­ter­est­ing con­cert (with nearly 1,000 fans), ar­guably one of the best small hall gigs here this year, and done with just a three-piece – Abrams, sax­o­phon­ist Ja­cob Sces­ney and gui­tarist Tay­lor Tesler.

Af­ter lo­cal singer-song­writer Liyana Fizi, ably han­dling open­ing du­ties, warmed up the night with her four-piece group, it was left to Abrams to take the night home.

In many ways, Abrams threw his book of mu­sic the­ory out the win­dow. He went with his heart and soul and the au­di­ence loved it.

A whole load of scat­ting was in­volved in his set. Yes, Abrams loves his scat­ting, and the guy could re­ally talk – his rap­port with the au­di­ence was nat­u­ral, al­most se­cond na­ture.

Most im­por­tantly, his vo­cal­i­sa­tion and im­pro­vi­sa­tion never sounded forced, even through singing some Ma­roon 5 and San­tana/Rob Thomas cov­ers. He de­liv­ered those ra­dio favourites in his own unique style, with just him­self scat­ting along to an up­right dou­ble bass.

Abrams was in fine form as he sung a few of his own tunes from his de­but al­bum, in­clud­ing the ob­vi­ously non-jazz, more popori­ented Get Up and Mid­night Girl.

But he knew how to lift the crowd in this two-hour show when he slipped on his jazz shoes.

Out came a Sam Cooke song, right to jazz stan­dards Hit The Road Jack and St Thomas. Of course, his ver­sion of Na­ture Boy in a con­cert set­ting was sub­lime while an en­core of Ge­or­gia On My Mind cer­tainly proved his met­tle and his own un­der­stand­ing of nos­tal­gia with pas­sion.

And with Pe­nang Is­land Jazz Fes­ti­val head­liner Freddy Cole in the au­di­ence nod­ding his head in ap­proval, you can’t go wrong, can you?

And who knows, one might see Abrams here again in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.

Deep soul: Casey Abrams to­tally liv­ing the mo­ment on stage at his re­cent Pe­nang Is­land Jazz Fes­ti­val stand­alone con­cert.

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