Just before Christmas I attended a concert by Auckland based musician Ben Fernandez. The occasion was the release of his latest album The Music Never Stopped but it also served as a homage to the spirit that was evident in the community during the New Zealand COVID lockdowns. Fernandez is of Goan extraction but was musically active in Mumbai before settling in New Zealand. He studied Jazz at several Auckland institutions and is a regular performer about town. He has also maintained a connection to the Bollywood Film industry. Along the way his musical influences have been rich and varied and he showcased many of those during his concert of mostly original compositions.
There was a spontaneous improvised piano piece, A tribute to his former teacher Phil Broadhurst, tunes written for various family members and of particular interest to me, a duo involving Persian musician Rasoul Abbasi. Abbasi played a Kamancheh which is an ancient-bowed instrument with a wonderfully mournful tone. The composition itself, and the contrast between piano and Kamancheh worked to the advantage of both. This ability to make strong and authentic intercultural connections is where Fernandez excels. It spoke to the universality of the improvised music traditions, and of empathy and the Jazz sensibilities.
Another tune of Fernandez which captured a pan-global essence was a piece written for a beloved family member ‘Chuchi’. I have included that as a video clip. The line-up was varied and featured many of the musicians he had studied with such as Andrew Hall (who gave a great saxophone solo on the heartfelt tribute to Phil Broadhurst). The musicians on the trio number were Jo Shum (bass) and Ron Samsom (drums). The concert finished up with Auckland vocalist Maria O’Flaherty singing a great rendition of the much-loved standard ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’. In light of the pandemic, the tune had added resonance.
‘The Music Never Stopped’ features Ben Fernandez (compositions, arrangements, piano), Jo Shum (bass), Ron Samsom (drums), Warren Mendonsa (guitar), Rasoul Abbasi (Kamancheh), Jess Rogers (vocals), CeleBRationChoir conducted by Alison Talmadge.
The album is available from benfernandez.com
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