MANILA – The benefit concert “Heal Our Land,” which was held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena last January 31, was perhaps the biggest gathering of local and foreign jazz artists in one stage outside of the annual international jazz festivals.
The concert featured several artists who can headline full concerts on their own, led by pianist-composer David Benoit, who has had several shows in Manila in the past; and another frequent Manila visitor, singer Kevyn Lettau, who first came to the Philippines as the vocalist of Sergio Mendez.
The fund-raising show for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda also featured Filipino-American saxophonist Michael Paulo, “Ghostbusters” hitmaker Ray Parker Jr., South African singer Jonathan Butler and Ambrosia vocalist David Pack.
The local performers included singers Sitti, Jaya and Chad Borja, “The Voice of the Philippines” finalist Thor Dulay and bands Side A, South Border, Freestyle, True Faith and Mulatto.
“It’s not easy to put on a show like this especially when you’ve got a collaboration of foreign and Filipino artists,” concert promoter Ed Bitanga, president of All That Jazz Inc., said in his welcome speech, as he thanked “the artists who came all the way from the United States just to make it over here and show their support.”
Paulo, who also acted as the show’s de facto host, promised a “great, great evening of celebration and music from many, many great artists locally and from America.”
The four-and-a-half hour jazz feast indeed had numerous highlights, including a taped welcome message from pastor and “Purpose-Driven Life” author Rick Warren.
An ebullient Jaya joined Benoit on stage to sing “Land of the Loving,” which was originally recorded by Diane Reeves, while Thor kept his cool with his effortless rendition of Benoit’s “Take A Look Inside My Heart”
Benoit also showed that he still has a way with the ivory keys during the ad libs on his old hit “Stages,” while fans finally got to see their idol and original vocalist David Pack on “Key to You.”
During her three-song set, Lettau did a mash-up of Gary Valenciano’s “Sana Maulit Muli” and Sergio Mendez’s classic “Bridges,” while Sitti teamed up with Freestyle for an uplifting Tagalog translation of “Empire State of Mind” entitled “Pilipinas.”
South Border showed off its unmistakable jazz styling in “Love of My Life, while Chad Borja grooved with pianist Gregg Karukas on “Sound of Emotion.”
Ray Parker Jr. proved that he still has that smooth sound on his hit “A Woman Needs Love,” while Jonathan Butler just blew everyone away with his crisp and powerful vocals on his hits “Lies” and an amazing cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” before closing the night (actually 1:20 a.m.) with “Heal Our Land,” joined by the other artists.
It was one evening jazz fans will remember for a very long time.