Music

Published: Wednesday February 26, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday February 26, 2014 MYT 6:29:17 AM

Rachel Guerzo: Soul full of jazz

After two years, singer-pianist Rachel Guerzo returns to the pop scene with her second album 'Sejati'.

After two years, singer-pianist Rachel Guerzo returns to the pop scene with her second album 'Sejati'.

RACHEL Guerzo isn’t all about swinging jazz favourites and romantic numbers. On stage at Kuala Lumpur’s No Black Tie recently, Guerzo proved that she could also find inspiration from an unlikely source. Sitting behind the piano, she sang an emotive rendition of Sejati, which is local rock band Wings’ signature anthem from the multi-platinum Teori Domino album from 1990.

If anything, Guerzo’s version of Sejati, done at a glacial pace, was a fascinating listen. It’s amazing to think the tune – already familiar with its gamelan/guitar solo intro and Wings singer Awie’s big arena vocals – was reinterpreted as a deeply haunting piano lullaby.

She was also in fine form on Jerat from Harvey Malaiholo and Dia, made popular by Indonesian Vina Panduwinata and our very own Datuk Sheila Majid. The song sounded different, yet the same. The infectious Sabar Menanti, a hit by the late Broery Marantika, also got an airing.

The fanfare never dipped through the night, and another delight was the Adam Ahmad-popularised Kau Pergi Jua. It was obvious that only those who grew up in the 1990s were most familiar with the tune, though.

Throughout the show, Guerzo retained her momentum with sublime versions of Malay classics Kau Pergi Jua and Sabar Menanti, performed intimately with her on piano and backed by two other musicians. All the songs she sang were very recognisable, though performed in the smooth jazz vein.

“I wanted to present this music in its most organic form, remaining true to and not straying too far away from my regular jazz format,” said Guerzo, 39, of Malaysian-Filipino descent.

The singer said she came up with the idea for the Sejati album to surprise her fans. “I have been planning to record a Malay album for sometime now. But I didn’t have a clear idea of how to go about it, in terms of song selection and concept. It was just an idea playing in my mind.

“As it happened, a couple of weeks after I met bassist Ruslan Imam, to discuss my new project, I bumped into my first boyfriend. That was kind of strange, but I would call it serendipity,” recalled Guerzo, the grand-daughter of Alfonso Soliano, the late legendary saxophonist and Orkes RTM leader.

“I always associate music with memories. For me, when I reminisce, it’s like I have a soundtrack for memories. So, when I saw my first love, can you imagine the soundtrack that was playing in my head?”

Guerzo and her team picked more than 40 songs for the album, and narrowed the list down to 12, with eight making it onto Sejati. But why would she bother recording an album given the absence of a record- buying culture today?

“Producing a new album is the way to stay relevant in the music industry. We have to make sure we do something fresh,” she explained. Opting for minimalism on Sejati, Guerzo wanted to showcase her growth as a pianist and singer. “Through my new album, I hope to showcase my growth as a musician, because my first album was dressed up with more instrumentation,” admitted Guerzo.

“I have chosen these songs specifically because they have a special meaning to me. I wanted it to showcase my personal touch on the songs. They are songs that listeners can identify with and relate to. They are easy listening and great to wind down to after work.”

She added that her late father, arranger and saxophonist, Salavador Guerzo, was her main mentor and inspiration, and was instrumental in the successful production of her debut album. However, for Sejati, she faced a huge challenge as she had to produce the material on her own.

“Personally, Sejati makes me proud to be a Malaysian musician as I am able to share my inner thoughts and personal feelings through my song choice and the way I present them,” concluded Guerzo.

> Sejati can be purchased from www.rachelguerzo.my.

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Rachel Guerzo, singer-pianist, album, Sejati

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