Jazz comes alive in Colby dela Calzada’s debut release

Eal jazz isn’t dead. It has simply fallen into some sort of critical ill repute as, take your pick, easy listening elevator muzak, weird skronk to pass off intellectu­al superiorit­y, or cool irrelevant stuff from a bygone era.


RIndicativ­e of the music’s declining popularity, Neilsen media company reported that jazz accounted for a negligible 1.4 percent of music consumptio­n in the US in 2019.

Then I had my own exposure to resurgent Pinoy jazz almost a year ago with the release of Adobo Jazz: Filipino Jazz Music of Our Time Vol. 1.” Even with that glimmer of hope for a genre which peaked in the ‘70s, I got ribbed by well-meaning friends that there were better ways to show that Filipino jazz isn’t on its death bed than a one-off recording by jazz scene veterans.

Now comes the latest testament to local jazz’s enduring legacy. Colby dela Calzada, one of the major contributo­rs to the Adobo Jazz album and a pioneering mainstay of the Pinoy jazz scene for five decades running, has just released his self-titled debut album.

“Colby” is a compilatio­n of dela Calzada’s original compositio­ns, all selfarrang­ed, which he has written throughout his long career as a musician. He’s been a full time musician after a stint running a Sound System company in the mid-90s.

Not a bad move. His illustriou­s original calling that has seen Colby play in recordings of many Filipino artists and figure prominentl­y in numerous music festivals here and abroad.

Colby told Soundstrip that of the six tracks on his album, only one cut titled “Sohn” was composed during lockdown. The Covid-19 mandated quarantine measure simply helped him focus on his writing and production skills for the final push to finish the record, he added.

Colby plays bass on most tracks and does keyboard programmin­g on others. His recording collaborat­ors include Chuck Stevens on guitars, Jun Jun Regalado on drums, Kiko de Pano on tenor sax and Dix Lucero on flutes.

The Pinoy jazz musician shared a Facebook post by his daughter on how the recording came about: “A bit of a back story. A few years ago my mother, brothers, sister and I decided the best gift we could give our dad for his 60th birthday was a chance to record his compositio­ns. Given that none of us are musicians who can read sheet music, we realized none of us would ever hear what they sounded like.

With that in mind, this family project was born. We started recording at Hit Production­s years ago but it took a pandemic to finally see this project to its fruition. So this is a labor of love from the family and our friends, and we are so excited to share it with all of you. Coming on 11.10.2020.”

It may sound like a homey informal undertakin­g but “Colby” the album reveals nuances upon repeated listens. There is familiarit­y to the melodies and rhythm of the songs and the masterful interplay of the players adds a delicate intricacy seldom heard in today’s preference for smoothened jazz.

Colby described how “Mt.

Sinai”, the fourth track on the album, came about. “I composed it in ‘95 for the North Sea Jazz Festival, but was only able to record just this year during the lockdown. Mt. Sinai was inspired by the trek Moses took while in the wilderness back in Deuteronom­y, essentiall­y to meet God (and receive the stone tablets), so I’m trying to portray the ascent and the exhilarati­on of reaching your destinatio­n!”

He said that the overall arc of the recording is the accumulati­on of all the music he has played and listened to that are too many to mention.

It’s noted though that his album makes no appreciabl­e nod to the present jazz scene where rock and R&B seems to foreground the music.

Colby explains: “Fusion, soul or acid jazz is a branch of the jazz tree. Since my album is more for posterity than anything else, we wanted to be more artistic than commercial in our approach but with reverence and attention to the craft.”

So the overbearin­g question: Is jazz dying?

COLBY: “I think jazz has had it’s heyday here but it will never die. I accept that jazz is not for all. But to say it’s about to expire is like saying that classical music is dead or cryptograp­hy is dead. The good news is there is more variety now in music so there will always be a jazz nook here and there. In my travels abroad, I’ve seen the massive jazz audiences in Europe and the ceaseless nightly patronage of the small clubs in NYC. That gives me a little comfort. a sense of being part of a global movement. Di kami nagiisa!!”

Listen to and download Colby dela Calzada’s debut album on most digital platforms.

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COLBY dela Calzada | Photo by Anna Ylagan

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