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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2003

Jazz trio is a Waikiki secret that's worth sharing

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Mariah Dodson of Manoa lounged in one of the rattan chairs at Lewers Loft and Lanai in Waikiki one Wednesday evening as Modern Bop Collective played.

Photos by Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

The jazz trio includes Scott Schafer of Hawai'i Kai, left, Gilbert Batangan of Pearl City, right. Robert Joyce, middle, stands in for bassist Mark Tanouye.

Modern Bop Collective's sound got a good response from Nina Smith and George Coppedge.
Of course I walked in to the Modern Bop Collective's jazz weekly at Lewers Loft and Lanai in Waikiki expecting to hear stuff more along the lines of "Headin' Home" than "Paranoid Android."

But alas, there were zero Radiohead covers offered the evening I dropped in to catch the jazz trio's traditional and modern musical takes on everything from Joshua Redman to Thom Yorke. The collective — guitarist Gilbert Bantangan, upright bassist Mark Tanouye and drummer Scott Schafer — has been known to occasionally bust out a wicked cover of the "OK Computer" track "Exit Music (For A Film)" in its set 'round midnight. And I was patiently staying up late on a school night waiting for it.

The good news? Its MIA status hardly mattered in the long run.

Modern Bop Collective's weekly adventures in jazz interpretation at Lewers Loft is arguably one of the city's best-kept live secrets. Made up of accomplished musicians with a love of improvisation and deep affinity for the jazz genre's many hues, the trio saved the patter for the breaks and let its ample musical chops do the talking for most of its three-hour gig.

After opening with a kicky be-bop romp through the standard "I'll Remember April," the collective toned things down with mellow swings through "Sweet and Lovely" and "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square." Charlie Parker's up-tempo "Yardbird Suite" offered all three players a shot at excellent solo turns.

The guys mostly relied on the moment to determine their set list, pausing briefly after each song — sometimes riffling through a couple of files overstuffed with sheet music — for discussion with themselves and the gathered. One fortysomething audience member, in particular, was eager to test the collective's vault of jazz knowledge early on by requesting a few obscure 1950s players.

"Play anything from the lowlifes," he said.

Batangan, in turn, suggested a particularly tricky Wes Montgomery composition "S.O.S.," promising his bandmates, "It's gonna be tough."

"That's all right," said the fortysomething. "We're all family."

"We will be after this," quipped Schafer, smiling.

The trio wound up mostly acing the track, laughing off their few miscues and smiling when the crowd rewarded their successes with applause.

Crowd-wise, there were never more than 20 people at the Loft at once. Still, the audience easily filled the open-air room overlooking Lewers Street in which the band performed. The atmosphere was always comfortably laid back, with people pulling up seats from other rooms when all of the rattan sofas and chairs in the performance area were taken.

The trio slowly moved away from the standards as the night went on, offering smokin' interpretations of Redman's "The Oneness Of Two (In Three)" and Herbie Hancock's "Drifting." An inspired workout of John Scofield's "Hive" even moved one patron enough to exclaim, "You guys are inspiring me to play my cello again!"

Just imagine what some Radiohead might have done.

Got a night spot, night event or club event we should check out? Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.

• • •

What: Modern Bop Collective.

Where: Lewers Street Loft and Lanai, 226 Lewers St., 922-5715.

When: 9 p.m.-midnight Wednesdays.

Our arrival/departure: 9 p.m./midnight.

Cover: Free.

Younger than 21 OK? Yes.

Age of crowd: 20s-50s.

What to wear: Both casual or dressy are fine.

Peak crowd while there: 20.

Queue?: No.

The soundtrack: "Gingerbread Boy," "Cherokee," "Devil May Care," "The End of the Love Affair," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill."

Formerly known as: The Jerome James Collective, before drummer James moved back to New York City in May.

Some perspective: "There were a lot of great (jazz) works and compositions ... in the '70s, '80s and the last decade that you don't hear about a whole lot. And part of (our) objective is to actually reflect on that." — Gilbert Batangan, guitarist.

On other nights: Batangan occasionally plays at Studio 6, and has performed with Azure McCall and Tennyson Stephens. Tanouye plays with blues band Jeff Said No! and Cecilio & Kapono (both together and solo). Schafer plays with R&B dance band eightOeight.

Essential Joshua Redman: "MoodSwing" (Warner Brothers, 1994), "Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard" (Warner Brothers, 1995).

Essential Radiohead: "OK Computer" (Capitol, 1997), "The Bends" (Capitol, 1995).

• • •

Night notes ...

With influences as diverse as Marley Marl, Goldie, Kenny Larkin, James Brown and Massive Attack, it's no surprise that Total Science duo Paul Smith and Jason Greenlaugh are listed among the drum 'n' bass genre's best producers. They're also crazy productive, having experimented in down tempo, deep house, and old school, and overseeing multiple releases for various labels. Catch 'em at Maze Nightclub's weekly Juicy party at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Sad to hear about what's being billed as the last of Pink Cadillac's Punk Rock Show! weeklies on Saturday. Extra Stout, Geronimo, Center City, Woody and witness B.C. are doing it live, 6 to 9:15 p.m. Entry is $5.

The Pretty-n-Punk fashion show at 8 p.m. Monday at Wave Waikiki also hosts Hellbound Hounds and Saggy Teri and The Meat Curtains. Yes, THE Saggy Teri and The Meat Curtains!