Two fine jazz guitarists Benson and Klugh:

Music connects people


Jazz as an example of multi-cultural thinking

by jun asuncion

Let me say at this point that we love classical music. That’s the foundation. This interest is reinforced and being kept alive due to this City’s rich cultural Life. Just think of the Tonhalle, Kongresshaus and the Opernhaus. Here we have witnessed the finest classical concerts, seen and heard very fine Artists. Our acquaintance with the Teuscher family (see has also opened up for us more possibilities in experiencing the classical world. Mr. Dolf Teuscher loves classical music and supports generously these Classical Houses as well us young artists.

In as much us we love the classical genre we also love good traditional folk music of the world like Filipino Folksongs,Spanish Flamenco and of course the whole spectrum of black music, especially jazz and the blues. We also possess a rich collection of Christian music since we used to play in a church band for some time.

I cannot write about music experience without mentioning my fascination of flamenco in the nineties. Flamenco was my blues, so to speak, at that time.The three elements of Baile (Dance),Cante (Song) and the Toque (guitar play) represented for me a world of pathos that is unequaled, eine Einheit (a oneness) of pure beauty and tradition so cohesively strong that it’s impossible to break it than to break the Spanish republic itself. It is not only an art, but a world that lives not only on stage but is very much alive in this mediterranean country especially in the regions of Andalusia, Malaga, Cordoba and Cadiz.

To visit a flamenco concert is to witness emotion and passion in action.You will feel the Sangre the moment the guitarist takes his position and strikes the first chord of that phrygian progression, when the cajun starts to beat, when the singer cries out the initial melody and, finally, when the dancer begins to tap the floor with her shoes and stretch out her arms gracefully in the air at the same time arching her body with such a pride and slowly moves to the front to declare herself. And then to push it all, come the rhythmic clappings with such dynamism and elan vital. Right between your very eyes begins to unfold the spirit of Flamenco, always a tour de force performance that will blow all your blues away whether you like it or not.

There is a flamenco argument that will force out the Duende in you the moment you’ll be in such a performance: Paco De Lucia, he is the ultimate flamenco guitarist (listen to him play), the absolute statement of Flamenco music. I will not dare to describe him more for I will be doing injustice. I can only add that when I saw him twice performing live my soul was nearly extracted out of my body, twice! See for yourself in youtube some of the uploaded clips of his performances and describe to me his music if you have the courage enough. I only have the courage to refer to you his recordings of Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranzues, the music of Manuel De Falla and the Doce Canciones De Garcia Lorca. If you want more, then check for yourself his whole Discography on the net.

But my ”working” music is jazz. Jazz is a pefect medium to relate with others and a tool to create music. For me, it’s really the best example of multicultural thinking for you have to be open and sensitive to other elements that come your way. When I was in Manila two years ago, I enjoyed the music I was getting in the streets. I don’t mean the loud music from the jeepney or taxi stereos but their very own rhythmical hornings. I got a lot of musical ideas listening to them and would memorize the best. Once at home I would play it on the instrument, embellish it with some chords and there it is, a new piece of music! I did that several times and ended up with some new pieces.

In the meantime these pieces are all gone for I never recorded them anyway. The way that I got them easy and free from the air, they vanished also quickly into thin air. This is what I mean by Jazz as my working music, it’s a tool I employ to put shape to my perceptions in my daily life, keep it and then maybe forget it next. I don’t think jazz musicians are fond of recording. For the purpose of selling their music they record cds. But for themselves alone, they don’t even listen to them. It’s a working music in the sense that it’s the music that runs almost 24 hours a day when I’m at home. So you see jazz people do listen to jazz, but mainly to other people’s work. Here I always listen to radioswissjazz. Back to Manila traffic, the jeepney, taxi and bus drivers never realize that with their impatience and aggressions they are unwillingly composing music!

So, for some of you, enjoy listening to jazz music in the streets of Manila once you get yourself stucked in a traffic, and let the jeepney driver keep the change for his music. If you live abroad you would miss your rides in Manila. You wouldn’t hear such creative sounds here in Zürich, except for the disturbing sound of a neighbor complaining about the noise of the children playing on the streets. That’s why this city is not a place for jazz music. It’s just too quiet so don’t expect jazz to spring out of a place like this. Have you been in New York? It’s like Manila! It’s oozing with music.

However, I confess that Switzerland is home to some famous Jazz Festivals on Earth (and also has produced some excellent jazz musicians). Think about the annual Montreaux Jazz Festival in this scenic alpine town of Montreaux, Jazznojazz and the Lugano Jazz Festival.They were and are frequented by famous jazz musicians. So this land is good for such festivals and concerts because people can pay. But it’s far from being a breeding ground for jazz music. It’s not in the nature of this alpine population. Jazz was born out of jam sessions among neighbors and here you can forget about this.This alpine population does not possess this natural rhythm that’s at the root of jazz and this sense of flirting with the unknown, sometimes with chaos, that one has to totaly depend on his improvisational skills to come out alive-or not alive-,who cares?, out of the situation. No, this is not for them for they are used to having a clear plan of order for everything. Jazz makes them nervous, it’s too irresponsible music, it’s too individual, politically incorrect. Classical music is closer to them, for before playing they know already in advance the first and the last note of the piece.

Talking about jazz, in particular guitar jazz, I advise you to check out guitarists like Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, John Abercrombie and John Mclaughlin. They are fine musicians. My advice: Should you be expecting a baby boy soon, consider naming him also Pat or John for it seems that the Pats and the Johns are destined to be excellent jazz guitarists! I’ve seen Pat Metheny two years ago during his THE WAY UP Tour. It was a revelation! The sound was typical Metheny and Lyle Mays’s chemistry:harmonically dense and complex, spiced up with soaring and, at times, haunting sounds from Metheny’s strings, the whole sound structure being hold together intact by the rest of the band, each one being a master in his own right. And when Antonio Sanchez is sitting on the drums then your evening is a double treat.

Nevertheless, there is a name I always go back to in order to put things in their proper places again when it comes to jazz guitar and that is George Benson. I’ve seen him twice and both concerts were a blast. After these concert nights I think everybody went home healed! I happened to talk to Pepe Lienhard, himself a respected swiss musician and bandleader, about this concert and he said “I think he is still the best jazz guitarist around”. Apart from his virtousity, he just sounds fresh and dynamic all the time and his lines are smooth, full of body and soul, rippling, bopping and bluesy, his guitar tone always full and round. He is a jazz guitarist par excellence. He plays just like he is in person, humble and no intellectual, esoteric or whatever kind of claims. He just play music that sounds good and is there to make his listeners happy.The singer George Benson? Oh, it’s a special category in itself. See and listen to his playing in or visit and discover more.

During the early nineties’ I learned jazz guitar from a greek jazz guitarist Theo Kapilidis at the Academy Of Contemporary Music,visit, a great guitar player and a very good teacher. Learning jazz guitar is no easy task. In fact, I’m still a beginner in many ways. From him I’ve learned the techniques of constructing chord melody solos of jazz standards and those lovely jazz chords. Theo, thanks again for your time and teachings!

There is a famous jazz guitarist who came one day to give a workshop that I fortunately attended. He is Joe Diorio. Small in stature yet big in sound, indeed, a jazz guitar monster. From him I learned the importance of focus and sensitivity to the small details of techniques that could lead one to discovering his own sound and personal approach to jazz guitar playing. Visit him in youtube and listen to the way he plays jazz blues.You will learn a lot.

Well, talking about the blues is always like talking about one’s family: it leads you to tradition all the way back to your ancestors more often than not. In the blues family you’ll ultimately end up to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Johnny Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Eric Clapton to name just a few. One knows that blues is the foundation of modern music including jazz. It is really, no doubt about that. The blues as a song form is simple,- 8 or 12 bars, your choice, and three chords to work with. Easy, yet it could lead you to heaven or hell, again, your choice.These same three chords had led to the killing of Robert Johnson in his time, to wealth and celebrity of Eric Clapton or the Rolling Stones in our time. Well, who got the authentic blues now?

Bored to death with just three chords? Then it’s time you consult Roben Ford. He knows the way out. He is at home in both worlds, the jazz and the blues and he sounds really good. It’s like when you are busy working on something while the blues special is running on the radio. Nothing special really for everything you hear is blues, you know, all these familiar riffs. But then you suddenly, quite unconsciously, turn your head to the radio because of a different guitar blues now being played.This could only be Roben Ford on the guitar. A virtouso in many ways but it’s the elegance and harmonic sophistication in his playing that separates him from the rest. I was blessed when he came to our jazz school in the early 90’s- The Academy Of Contemporary Music (now Zürich Jazz School) – to give a concert in that small club where we- the class or the band- also used to play, especially during practical examinations. And there he was, just five meters away from my seat, strumming my blues with his fingers! Well, there was nothing left to be said after his playing, I got nothing, nothing but the blues.

15 thoughts on “Music

  1. Hello Sylvie,

    Was für eine angenehme Ueberraschung, liebe Nachbarin! Ich hoffe, es geht euch allen gut.
    Ich habe schon die Vogelwarte Website besucht und finde sie wirklich sehr interessant und bereichernd. Ich war schon mal in Sempach Mitte der 80er Jahre. Jetzt ist Frühling und jeden Morgen sind wir durch die wunderschönen Vögelgesänge geweckt. Es ist wirklich herrlich, dass Gott uns diese wundeschönen und musikalischen – und noch dazu fliegenden !- Geschöpfe gegeben hat.
    Ich teile Deine faszination an diese Geschöpfe, das ist nicht von der Hand zu weisen, und als Jazz-Musiker sind mir die wunderschönen und rhythmischen Vögel Melodien Quelle unerschöpflicher Inspiration.

    Besten Dank und auf einen schönen Frühling!

    jun asuncion

  2. Hello Jun

    I see, music is the window of my soul. It is invigorating, refreshing and keep my mind alive.. Try playing “Under A Blanket Of Blue” music by Jerry Livingston, lyrics by Marty Symes and Al J. Neilburg. Copyright 1933. It has a swing rhythm or Jazzy blues in piano or saxophone or even in a guitar. My favorite is Rhapsody in Blue by gershwin. Sometimes, we need music to recharge our overworked body and mind. Even the little mouse loves the music. Enjoy these selections. I am sure you will love it.
    Dora the Mouse

  3. Hello Dora

    I’m afraid that if we start talking about music now we will completely forget Bulan Observer! For music is such a beautiful art and there are only good things to share.
    Thanks for your tip. I’ve checked it out already and I will add it in my repertoire. And you just came just right on time for I’ve been preparing my songlist for my summer gigs which is mainly jazz standards for solo guitar. I didn’t know you also appreciate jazz music but I heard that you play acoustic guitar. Yes, keep practicing!

    jun a.

  4. Hello Jun,

    Yes! I love music. It takes my heart and soul out beyond the vast universe and just float amongst the stars, dazed and intoxicated in a dreamworld of music. Yes! Music is intoxicating. It is like a fine wine just slowly sipping it and savor the taste. It is an art that hynotized me put me in a state of magical flight amongst the clouds. Music is my confidant, my lover, my friend that takes me to the moon for awhile and enjoy the SOUND and back to earth, to reality and to life.I love jazzy blues, smooth jazz like Take Five played by Dave Brubeck Quartet, Softly with Feeling by Count Basie, One note Samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sweet and Lovely by Gerry Mulligan ( saxophone), West Coast Blues by Oscar Peterson, You Go to my head by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and the Best of the Big Band era, a few selections of light classical music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Chopin , Beethoven and Mozart. Icould go on and on but time is not enough for now. When you do the gigs, do you record it? Have fun with your Summer Gigs.
    Dora the Mouse

  5. Hi Freund
    ich freue mich schon auf eine baldige Zusammenarbeit. MoR hat den ersten Eintrag.
    Zum Glück kommst Du draus, hab noch manche Frage.

    Bis auf bald

  6. Ja, hallo! Ich freue mich auch schon auf unsere Zusammenarbeit. Ich habe versucht Deine Seite zu öffnen aber ohne Erfolg, anscheinend ein Verlinkungsproblem. Aber wir werden es schon herausfinden, lieber Freund.

    Bis dann!

  7. Dear Jun,

    We have contacted our server. We are also frantic that a lot of people are calling or txting us up what happened to the Bulan website. According to our server, they are going through the regular yearly “scanning”, or updating… I don’t know these procedures. I have our operator Jeff, to consistently follow up daily on developments. The server told us the site will be back sometime this week. As to our subscription, we are updated.
    Please bear with the inconvenience. And by the time the site is back we shall have it updated by then on the November issues. Meanwhile, please log on to, where we have the latest news.

    Thanks tabi.

    Tonyboy-PIO Bulan

  8. To Tonyboy,

    Thank you for your prompt reply.There is a need among more and more people to know and get informed. Even people from Europe are asking me “where is Bulan?”, a question that’s music to my ears, of course.

    Nowadays you don’t look for a printed world map anymore but google straight- and you just don’t have a map to show but almost everything- the photo of Mayor De Castro, our culture, problems and our discussions, etc.

    I’ve just introduced our town last week to the Embassy people and to other Filipino group leaders. And they were all astonished to know how active our people are.

    Oliver has pointed out the limited number of wired households in Bulan. But I’m confident that this will not decrease but rather increase with time.

    With electronic voting, soon Bulanenõs will be casting their votes from internet cafes, from their households- or from far away places. In many parts of the world, Filipinos will be casting their votes in next year’s election per internet – at least for the national level.

    Here where I work, one can soon vote per sms- or text as you call it there.

    Time will come when this e-voting will be extended to the town elections, to Bulan elections! It woudn’t take a second for me to decide to register as a voter.

    Internet has a good future in Bulan as well. And Bulan should prepare for this now, not tomorrow.

    So there is a need for a good official Bulan Website. Bulan Observer and all other blogs about Bulan serve only as a bridge in between.

    Nowadays, public officials should make avail of the advantages of the medium internet in reaching out the people. Tv’s and radios are becoming secondary mediums of getting information. Internet is interactive and has lot more practical and social values.

    For a government administration to turn its back from this development is a sign of retrogression and make people suspect that their officials are hiding something from them or avoiding critics from their constituents.

    Now we have a growing numbers of netizens who dwell in their chosen internet niches. We also hope to gradually build up our Bulan netizens with time, thereby help retrieve our lost Kabungtos.

    jun asuncion

  9. Music expresses emotions of human being and creates happiness and sadness of human who plays the music. The lyrics of songs which relates to us gives us memories of past experienced. Musics gives us capacity to be strong and love one another.

    • Nice thoughts on music appreciation, anonymous.
      If music and love were a religion from the beginning, this world would have been a much better place.

      jun asuncion

  10. Hi Jun,
    Great article.
    Your writing is just as good as your playing.
    It was an honor to serve with you AND to read these.
    Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes.

  11. Hi Simon,
    It’s great to hear from you!

    I wish that my guitar playing would be as excellent as your drumming.
    And perhaps this would improve my writing a little more!

    It’s always a double treat serving and playing with you
    and I always look forward to it.
    Thank you also for appreciating the works that we are doing here
    in Bulan Observer. See you soon!

    jun asuncion

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