THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

One has to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, it was their first night playing together while most at the Blue Bar, our favourite meeting place with the best service in town and a great selection of wines including free Happy Hour snacks, on this Friday night were there killing time before making their way to well-known local entrepreneur Raj Marwah’s wedding reception. Few were actually listening to the music.

HAS THE BLUE BAR GOT IT RIGHT 1

A group of us were there as we’re fans of guitarist Robin Banerjee who’s returned to Hong Kong from the UK leaving the ghost of Amy Winehouse behind. In case, you didn’t know, Banerjee once played guitar for the late singer and, as expected, his playing this night was tasteful and professional.

HAS THE BLUE BAR GOT IT RIGHT 2

New resident singer Alice Ella, direct from the UK, is who we really came to check out as, gawd knows, Hong Kong needs some new musical blood to prop up this place.

HAS THE BLUE BAR GOT IT RIGHT 3

So, as the band “jazzified” their way through standards like “All Of Me” and the Etta James classic, “At Last”, all before 9pm, the dreaded Nodding Off Effect started to take over and friends became more interested in where we were going for dinner with the Marwah wedding party having left.

Suddenly, there was that feeling of déjà-vu with musicians indulging in self-indulgence and jazzified soloing with a young singer from the Pop side of the tracks in the middle of it all and looking like Bambi caught in the headlights.

Like an asshole, everyone has an opinion, but whoever chooses every recent resident singer’s material who ends up at the Blue Bar has got it hideously wrong.

Whoever it is, they are certainly not smart or knowledgable A&R people with an understanding of the old adage that is it’s got to be about horses for courses in the world of entertainment.

Sure, some of us grew up appreciating the talents of Barney Kessell, Shelly Manne, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday. Some of us were even taken at a pretty young age to jazz clubs like Shelley’s Manne-Hole and heard some of the greats like the Bill Evans Trio perform to an audience of afficionados.

We’ve been to late night bars in NYC “digging” Beat poetry with some Lenny Bruce thrown in along with inhaling whatever was around.

But, man, daddy-o, whatever, whoever, this is a lounge in a five-star hotel where one pays five-star prices for drinks and wish to be entertained.

We’re not there to listen to noodling and doodling and musical masturbation by musicians considered some of the “best” in Hong Kong, whatever that means.

We listened to one and a bit sets before someone in our group finally said those prophetic words that could have killed our Friday night: “This music is putting me to sleep. Shall we just go home?” It was 9.30pm and, mercifully, so we didn’t. We left for dinner. But, let’s just hope the musos at the Blue Bar play to the strengths of Alice Ella and not treat her like another instrument.

We’ve seen this happen before in the venue where the same tedious soloing has taken place and that awful self-indulgence setting in and driving customers away.

HAS THE BLUE BAR GOT IT RIGHT 4

Make this a showcase for Alice Ella so we have a chance to hear what she’s about, and not have the spotlight turned on a trio playing the type of jazz that belongs in a different venue and another era.

Fingers crossed that we hear the real Alice Ella and not someone looking uncomfortable dressed in a Golden Girls sequined gown sounding like a fish outta water. It’s unfair on the girl- and the audience.