[FEATURE] Teriver Cheung Trio Masterclass

Warning: 4-beats in 3 performed in simple quadruple time ahead. If you do not wish to visualize that mind-blowing scene, please do not proceed.

You have been warned.


Obviously it’s impossible to feel mind-blown in written form. There is absolutely no way to describe such a scene. Ha!

Anyhow, it happened again during the Band Masterclass, conducted on 23rd of May. It was the first ever masterclass of the May semester, and it was such a great way to kickstart the semester – since band masterclasses are the rare ones.

The masterclass was conducted by Teriver Cheung from Hong Kong, who is one of the most exciting jazz guitarist around who has played with many jazz luminaries; Kerong Chok, Singapore’s top and established jazz pianist and organist; and also Chanutr Techatana-nan (aka HONG), a prolific jazz drummer, who is active not only in native Thailand, but around the Asian region.

It was an exciting experience to watch all bands to perform on stage and get very useful feedbacks from the trio.  We had three very different bands who played different genres. All of them have great orchestration and entertaining values – but each had their own challenges to be improved on that were pointed out by the trio.

“Anthropology” (Charlie Parker) performed by Ely Tham (guitar), Khai Xin (keyboard bass), Wen Hung (piano), and Teck Yiin (drums).

Throughout the masterclass, there were a few common issues that were pointed out by the trio. All of them mentioned the drum sounds. They wanted the drummers to sound more melodious as they lock in with the band. Hong emphasized on having the right cymbals could make an amateur drummer sounds like a professional, while equally prioritize the variations on the ride cymbals. He even asked for them to incorporate the jazz vocabularies and hinted about the polyrhythms that he taught during the drum workshop into as it will open up the tune more. It seemed that the trio were very picky on the drum’s sound as well, as they were able to pick out that “wrong sound that spoils the whole groove”.

Soloing techniques were also cautioned to not becoming boring, blocky, or monotonous. They emphasized on making them more melodious rather than filling in all the blanks with all 8 notes. They could variate between 16-notes and triplets, alternating between two phrases. Every notes must have a purpose. The soloists must know where’s the target – where to end and knows where’s the resolution. To practice, one can alternate between one bar phrase and one bar harmony, similar to call and response.

“Let It Ride” (Robert Glasper) performed by Khai Xin (piano), Sam Leong (keyboard), Travis Tan (bass), Chee Seng (guitar), An Ting (vocal), and Terrence (drums)

Through this, I learned a lot regarding the harmonies on the piano. Instead of doubling up the chord, one could instead remove the double notes, use more common notes, and play less notes for the chord to give a clearer sound rather than blocky sounds. The ones that I liked the most was when Kerong used the polychords in gradual but fast motion ascension – it felt crystallic and it suits the atmospheric background of “Let It Ride”.

“It’s On” (George Duke) performed by Jack Lim (keyboard), Andy Chong (guitar), Ian Linga (bass), and Gibien Guan (drums).
“It’s On” (George Duke) performed by Jack Lim (keyboard), Andy Chong (guitar), Ian Linga (bass), and Gibien Guan (drums).

The masterclass ended with a Q&A session, with Gibien, a 2nd year drum major, asked how would Hong solo in a funk tune. As funk isn’t a genre that he normally performs in, he was stumped by the question. Hong mentioned that he is not a funk drummer, so his solos may sound very different from mainstream funk drummers. He breaks into a funky groove and begins to insert polyrhythms into the funk groove — this is where the 4-beats in 3 performed in simple quadruple time comes in — creating his own style. In return, we were stumped by his answer!

As a composer, I learned a lot in dealing with the details that could change an entire tune and bring the level of the sound up by folds. It was truly mesmerizing to listen to the Teriver Cheung Trio talk about things that we never noticed them before – and it is these small details that makes performances enjoyable, memorable, and above all, musical.

This article was written by Yenni Chiang, 3rd year student of the Bachelor in Contemporary Music program.


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