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London-based Robin Banerjee is an exceptional guitarist and it was good to see him relaxed and leading a jam session to a packed house on Sunday at Peel Fresco.

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I had seen Banerjee in London and, later, Tel Aviv, and kept hearing that “Amy Winehouse’s guitarist” was in town making a record and playing with Hong Kong-based singers Ginger Kwan and Jennifer Palor in some Amy Winehouse “tribute” shows.

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Amy Winehouse was Amy Winehouse with not exactly a hugely known catalogue of work, especially in Hong Kong, and so the idea of an Amy Winehouse “tribute show” here only brought to mind the frighteningly opportunistic Duffy, but, I guess, this kinda thing works for some and that’s cool. I caught one of these “tribute” shows in Tel Aviv featuring Banerjee and Israeli vocalist Calvi Riflin which worked fine. To friends here who checked out the traveling show at the somewhat new Orange Peel, they were underwhelmed. Hey, they had only heard “Rehab”, so $280 for almost four hours of “Amy Winehouse” was probably three hours too long.

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What worked for me at Peel Fresco was Robin Banerjee’s playing- fluent, inventive, sometimes “Barney Kesseled”, always on that Jazz side of the street- and his sharing- his inane ability to allow excellent Italian percussionist Davide to come into his own along with bassist Justin and a guest keyboardist whose name escapes me.

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The problem with, especially, jazz-tinged jam sessions in Hong Kong as opposed to London, NYC or LA- or Singapore, Stockholm or Shanghai or Sydney-is that instead of things building up and getting better and more creative, they start out with potential, but then plateau out before becoming an open house where guests outstay their welcome, and those usual suspects who are still stuck within the constraints of Hong Kong’s tiny “jizz” talent pool get up and shuck and jive and warble what they’ve been warbling for the past five to fifteen years. It’s boring. And sad.

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There are jam sessions and there are creative jam sessions and by midnight, the familiarity of it all and seeing the usual crowd cram into Peel Fresco- the same crowd also found at Orange Peel, Backstage, five star hotel lounges and Grappas- my breathing became uneven. I had to escape from the gawdawful pretentiousness, and superficiality of it all, and too many precious people with a false sense of self-importance and their heads up their bums.

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Too bad, as I would have really liked to have heard more of Robin Banerjee and Davide with more creative and contemporary players performing original material with a singer or singers who want to bring something new to the table as opposed to copyists whose egos are outta whack and repertoire and relevance is ten years behind the eight-ball.

Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk