Caught in the Act: Balooze at 70s Bistro

 By Balooze Howler


Riki Gonzales, guitar                                   Dave Harder, bassOnce in a while, one gets to see a performance by musicians gathered with only one goal in mind: to create intensely beautiful music for art's sake. Last night was no exception.

The air of anticipation enveloped the crowd like freshly burned herbs as Balooze got up on the colorful stage of 70s Bistro to get ready for their debut appearance at this Quezon City jazz mecca. The group warmed up with a Chick Corea tune called "Sea Journey" and segued into
Thelonius Monk's "Well You Needn't" before breaking in quite a few fresh and original compositions by the group's leader, Jazz Society of the Philippines member, Riki Gonzales.

Joey There was no mistaking that "Welru" was going to be a hard-hitting heavy fusion tune right from the start. Dave Harder's opening idiosyncratic bass line was a dead giveaway. Coupled with Joey "JQ" Quirino's synth jabs, it created a sort of a playground for Riki Gonzales' melody that sounded like Weather Report on steroids. When the solo parts arrived,
you can tell that the players are really digging the tune, judging from the expression on their faces. It was sort of an organized nirvanic chaos as each musician took turns in dissecting the difficult passages of this highly original tune. The group's saxman, Lorry Zamora, did more than justice to the tune as he solo'd like a madman on a mission. Wendell Garcia's clockwork precision on the drums and his explosive solo was a thing of beauty.

Next up was Agora e Ahora (Portuguese for "now's the time"), an introspective samba that was obviously inspired by the Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays tandem. The synth blanket woven by "JQ" was highly appropriate for the evocative melody of this song. All the sensitivity and conviction poured out from each of the band member's instruments like honey drippings from a wildflower.

Wendell GarciaSeveral other compositions stood out: the infectious hot bop called "Balooze" seemed like a group self-portrait and is defintely THE anthem. "Mr. T.T." was a funkified guitar ode that reminds one of Steve Khan's "Some Punk Funk", and a ballad called "Reflection" may have originally been written as a lullaby for a newborn.

Several pinoyjazz members jammed on stage too! Recognizable were Ria Villena-Osorio, Simon Tan, Micah Azurin and a young up and coming guitar player named John Mendoza. Everyone had a blast, including Rennard of 70s Bistro, who invited the group to perform there again next month.

Not surprisingly, a debut album is in the works, which explains all the studio time that Balooze has been spending lately, refining their craft. No doubt in my mind, this is arguably one of the best UNSIGNED bands today.

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