Thursday, April 28, 2005

[ It's 5:45am - man, this intractable insomnia is killing me, aargh. ]

Let me explain the captions above. :)

Peter Cincotti's Showcase at Thumper 27th April 2005

Yes, believe it or not, I managed to worm my way into this very exclusive event, thanks to a combination of thick skin, sincerity, and the immense kindness of strangers.

The experience has accomplished the following ( for me at least ):

1. Fulfilled my wish to see the Fab Four male jazz musicians in person - namely Robbie Williams ( 2001 ), Michael Buble ( 2003 ), Jamie Cullum ( 2004 ) and Peter.

2. Provided a night - though short - of absolutely top-notch entertainment.

3. Proven that photos can indeed be VERY deceiving.

Moving on to point #3 quickly ( so I can get it out of my system, haha ), Peter in the flesh is just... GORGEOUS.

All this time, I assumed he looked like a young boy - if you've seen his CD covers and heck, even the promo pics, you'd agree.

But in real life, he is quite literally a giant, with strikingly mature good looks despite his tender age ( 21 ). He exudes lots of confidence, class and understated sex appeal, and that smile - guaranteed to melt hearts. :)

If I sound gushy, then you're mistaken. I'm just plainly stating facts. I'm almost 10 years his senior, so I view him more as a nephew of sorts ( he seems too young to be my brother even, heh ). But when he first stepped out on the stage, I was dumbfounded .

Okay, moving right along. :)

Thumper is a rather small pub located adjacent to the Goodwood Park Hotel carpark, but features a cozy atmosphere perfect for jazz - as opposed to the Aquadesiac where Jamie Cullum performed ( that glass staircase is a recipe for frequent falls, I tell you ). The event was very well-organized, unlike the Jamie showcase, which felt more like a perpetual state of ordered chaos. This time, I got to sit through the whole thing, with an excellent view just 3 metres from the piano. Free flow of drinks and appetizers, without having to foot a penny, woohoo!

Peter wore a simple black-jacket-and-pants-with-white-shirt ensemble, just like the one in that picture up there ( randomly picked from the Internet, since the really beautiful ones aren't downloadable, for whatever reason, but I will provide links for those later ).
Nothing flashy at all, but he still looked like a million bucks. Certainly the mark of a true star, eh? :)

The 6-song set lasted perhaps 40 minutes in total, beginning with St Louis Blues, then followed by Some Kind Of Wonderful, I Love Paris, Sway, On The Moon and a preview of a song for his next album ( the title of which I can't recall because I was scrambling for my camera for last shots ).

One of the great things about jazz is how the album and "live" versions just never sound the same. This goes for everyone, from the Fab Four to all the legends before them, and even Norah Jones.

So Peter and his trio of bandmates jammed joyously, adding colour and finesse to the songs, easily doing acoustic variations of strings-heavy pieces like I Love Paris and On The Moon.

The best song of the evening? Definitely Sway, which incidentally is the only one taken from his debut rather than the latest album, and is responsible for propelling him to superstardom in the US. Most people prefer Michael Buble's uptempo cover, but Peter's slow-and-sizzling interpretation - complete with whispery vocals and measured piano solos - beats the competition hands down. Last night's version was no exception, but sounded even more terrific in a "live" setting, maybe because watching him sing it right there in front of me made it so much more exciting. :)
But halfway through the song, the improvisations started, beginning slowly at first, then escalating into full head-banging, foot-stomping rhythms for maybe 3 minutes, before winding down nicely into a mellow finish.

It wasn't till he'd played the last note that I realized I'd been holding my breath for who knows how long. Now THAT'S what I call really good jazz. :D

There were a couple of downsides though. First, the set was a little short. But according to the emcee - none other than Denise Keller from MTV and Eye For A Guy - Peter and gang were on a tight schedule and had to leave for San Francisco the next day. Apparently, that's why he didn't oblige with an encore. Well, let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

Second, getting an autograph presented hurdles of colossal proportions. Sure, he sounds like a nice, affable person in media interviews, but his management team is really something else. Perhaps I'm just not good at sweet-talking them, but having met people in similar professions on previous occasions, the two men I encountered last night were just plain rude.

However, I'm happy to report that I managed to solve this problem very speedily. Some things happen for a good reason, and thanks to a combination of a few events, including an email read by Class 95's Jean Danker to Peter during a Dinner Jazz segment interview, his very public reply ( in which he PROMISED to grant ME an autograph, inviting me to walk up to him and just say the word when I attend the showcase ), and again, the kindness of strangers ( A and G, I'm forever indebted to you both! ), the autograph did materialize ( though I didn't get the chance to meet him in person ).

Still, overall, it was a great show. Peter is an accomplished pianist, sings well, clearly loves what he does, and tries his best to be friendly ( though I suspect jet lag and an unforgiving schedule tainted last evening's behaviour just a tad ). The event was also further marred by technical problems ( a faulty mike stand, screeching feedback that caused Peter to cover his ears and grimace at one point ) and a large crowd of talkative people at the bar behind me ( hello? anyone with manners in here? ).

To his credit, Peter exhibited some measure of good humour at one rather awkward juncture. After finishing Sway, the mike stand disintegrated, and the feedback problem surfaced. But once that was sorted out, he cheekily asked us if he could take it from where they left off, launched into the closing chords of Sway, waited for us to applaud and cheer once again, then went into his intro for On The Moon.
"This was all planned, by the way," he laughed. Ah, there's some wit in him yet. :)

Did I like the performance? You bet.

But is it the best I've seen? It depends. There's no doubt at all that Peter is fast on his way to bigger things. He's got tonnes of talent, has the quadruple-whammy advantage of not only playing an instrument extremely well, but also singing, composing and arranging his own repertoire.

However, based on all the performances I've seen so far, my favourite is still Jamie Cullum, for the following reasons. His showcase in July 2004 lasted a whopping 90 minutes. He was a lot more chatty and energetic, obliged with a few encores, and even jumped into the audience ( and shook my hand - still vividly remember THAT! :)). Watching his concert DVD, Live In Blenheim, it's obvious that he gave his blood and sweat in the Aquadesiac that night, and that everything he did wasn't just for show. And for that, he has my eternal support and respect.

Hopefully, we'll see Peter Cincotti back on our shores in the near future, and this time for a proper concert in a nice venue, with NO-ONE talking in the background, ahem. If you'd like to know what THAT'S like, check out this review from a UK show. Front-row tickets are a must!

And In Other News...

Eye For A Guy 2 is back. As usual, the men are the main draws, but I must say Denise is a hundred times more tolerable than the very ditzy, Singlish-twanged Rachel Lee.
I spotted my favourite in the pilot, believe it or not. Howard, the irrepressible and boyish clown, looks set to be the winner. Now why can't I meet guys like that? ;)

American Idol 4 this week sprang a Clay Aiken surprise. He didn't perform, but was seated in the audience - and didn't get mobbed? how can?! ( just kidding ). He's gone back to his brunette / redhead roots, but looked a little tired. Poor thing.

Constantine will always be my pick for the Idol crown. He didn't do so well this time, I admit - what song did he sing anyhow? - but he has the X factor. Truckloads of it. That's what sells records. And that's all that matters.
Anthony also did a great job, as did Vonzell, who's running circles around dull little Carrie Underwood. If there has to be a female in the final 2, let it be V and not C.

Just finished reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. Primarily because I intend to read its sequel, The Da Vinci Code, and figure out what all this hype is about already. I did enjoy Angels, and will probably like Da Vinci as well. Brown's character development suffers from a kind of over-achievement syndrome ( c'mon, a Harvard professor who swims 50 laps a day and can outmanouevre an entire college polo team on his own? not to mention a physicist so beautiful and brilliant she doesn't have a boyfriend? ). But thankfully these hiccups are nicely balanced by the really good bits - the high-brow stuff. I'm not a history buff, so I'll probably need to find out how much of what Brown wrote is fact or fiction. But since I'm heading to Italy in July ( and missing the JCI accreditation exercise, HA! ), I'm hunting for the opportunity to visit all the sites listed in the novel - Vatican City and the Pantheon are already in the itinerary, but I want to see those Bernini sculptures, especially the one with St. Teresa, heh heh.

Oh yeah, I haven't explained the "one degree of separation" caption.

You know the term "six degrees of separation", right? About this hypothesis stating that everyone can be connected to one another through a minimum of 6 others? Well, last night, seeing Peter Cincotti in person, and knowing he acted with Kevin Spacey in the Bobby Darin epic, Beyond The Sea ( Spacey spotted Peter in a club gig and approached him to play a secondary role in the film ), I felt truly privileged. It's a giant step closer to my favourite actor of all time, and that, my dear readers, is my early 30th birthday present. :D

Before I end off, here're the links as promised:

Peter Cincotti's Official Website - photos galore.

Ermenegildo Zegna - more gorgeous pictures, including those of fellow new face Diego Luna, yum.

It's 7:15 am. Time to have breakfast and try to stay awake for my shift later, haha.

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