This will be in a series of articles on The Solianos Project. Why them? Although I begged Leslie to have a listen to The Solianos, although it seems like I "discovered" them as a recording potential, the truth is not so exceptional on my side. How do you discover a group that has been around for twenty thirty years?
Listening to the live, doing these 3 songs convinced me that there is something "big" ... Tudung Periuk, Tanah Pusaka and Gadis Idaman Ku. The Solianos have been plying their trade at various venues and even corporate events, and while most of their repertoire were in English jazz standards, I was convinced they had to do a Malay album which will totally encapsulate their brilliance, musicality, musicianship and melodious harmonies. It had to be a Malay album because it reflects their heritage perfectly (Alfonso Soliano and Tony Soliano).
The final song list is equally distributed with numbers composed by Alfonso Soliano and emblematic Malay songs through the years (with the Solianos treatment, they were given a fresh breath of vibrancy again - you didn't know that some Malay songs could actually sound so good).
In many ways, The Solianos represent the music culture for the past 60 years and the Pusaka album is more "1Malaysia" than anything I can imagine. If you are between 35-75 you will really feel that you lived through these songs, in your own country, cause nowhere else on earth will you get an album like this or get to appreciate one like this.
Both Tony and Alfonso were greats in their own rights. Alfonso was behind many artistes in the 70s, in fact he was the music arranger / director for Sharifah Aini's Pasir Roboh, Damak Ku Sayang, Serampang Laut, Dodoi Si Dodoi, etc... and thats just one artiste. I like Kartina Dahari a lot, and she also sang one of Alfonso's composition, Tunas Kasih. Tunku Abdul Rahman sought help from Radio Malaysia – Alfonso Soliano, Lanthall, Croft, Bert Read, Dol Ramli and Datuk Ahmad Merican to create the national anthem, Negaraku from a love song, Terang Bulan. Alfonso was always top of the list even then.
Alfonso's better known compositions include: Gadis Idaman Ku and Airmata Berderai. Hence the album which they are doing has almost half of them songs that linked the Soliano name to this group of talented musicians.
This great article was written by errol de cruz for NST and was published on merdeka day august 31, 2007,
IF there's one family that stands above all others in Malaysian music-making, it must be the Soliano clan.
There's an often-used joke which says that if you don't want to become a millionaire, all you need do is become a jazz musician. It's probably what used to happen in the early 1900s what with so many talented jazz and blues musicians succumbing to "occupational hazards".
In today's musical climate, however, jazz musicians have come a long way and several have made a big name for themselves, the Malaysian list includes Michael Veerapen, Lewis Pragasam, Andy Peterson, David Ah Wah, Julian Chan, Vincent Ong, Josie Thomas, David Gomes and many others.
Airmata Berderai sung by Dia Fadila
Jazz itself has come a long way, finding its way into pop, rock and ethnic fusion; it's not surprising to find pop artistes who have matured, so to speak, turning back to their roots and hitting jazz joints with sets that include songs by Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Last week, for example, at popular jazz joint No Black Tie, patrons were pleasantly surprised to find evergreen artiste Khatijah Ibrahim at the mike, belting out her own originals and also jazz standards like Don't Rain On My Parade, Luck Be My Lady Tonight and Fever.
Accompanying her was an ensemble starring a renowned music family - the Solianos, arguably the only family in Malaysian showbiz who can claim a heritage of jazz that dates back well into the nation's history, well past the inaugural Merdeka celebrations, thanks to their forefathers, the legendary Alfonso and Tony Soliano.
A recording of Tony Soliano playing LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDOURED THING with Azizah Basri on vocals. Recorded around 1988 by RTM on a radio program "Saturday Nite Star". Posted by Azizah, man, can she sing.
The Soliano name hails back to the days of the British occupation, when Rufino Soliano and Dominado Tirona were brought in from the Philippines to play in the Constabulary Band.
Later, Alfonso and his nephew Tony came into the picture. Alfonso was the serious one, leading and writing for the orchestras of the time, while Tony was happy being the live wire, leading local musicians in one jazz ensemble or another on both sides of the Causeway, and in the heady Bangkok scene, too.
"Those were the days," many say, "when we had talented artistes like Ahmad Wan Yet, Zain Azman and Julie Sudiro entertaining us."
Alfonso and Tony died, months apart, in 1990, and it has been up to their children and families to keep things going.
Today's Soliano clan remembers the days of yore well, especially Valentino "Tinoy" Soliano who was the only one who performed with his father Alfonso. "I was the lucky one and yes, those were the days," he said.
"If you went to any of our homes after he passed away, there'd be a portrait of him above the piano and as we practised, we'd get that echo that said: "No bluffing, ah."
"Dad's talent was his wealth," Tinoy said. "He'd always bring himself down to the playing level of other musicians and make them sound good."
The Soliano Brothers picked up the flag from Alfonso and performed all over the country for more than 15 years, until individual talent and creativity nudged them into forming their own groups.
Now, instead of just one family ensemble plying the trade, there are at least six outfits pushing the Soliano envelope, from Langkawi to Singapore.
* Tinoy's sister, Isabella, leads one band at the Datai in Langkawi, with Conrado playing trumpet.
* Brother Rizal and niece Rachel have two bands, now performing at No Black Tie.
* Sister Irene sings with the Soliano Brothers whenever she can.
* Cousin Daniel Guerzo leads his Nine Lives in Langkawi.
* Tony Soliano Jr has a band in Johor Baru.
* Cousin Louis Tan Soliano plays drums at Jazz At Southbridge in Singapore.
* Older brother Remy had an accident recently and is currently bed-ridden.
* Tinoy and Tristano are session musicians. "We're the family mercenaries," Tano laughed.
The Solianos @ noblacktie, Tricia singing Honeysuckle Rose followed by their rendition of Gadis Idaman Ku (forward to 4.10 minute of the clip to hear the second song). It is by hearing their rendition of this song and Tudung Periuk that I then begged Leslie to give them a listen.
The entire family gets together at Christmas and last year, they more or less took over Langkawi island for two whole weeks. And when they do get together, it's Salvador Guerzo who leads them.
Ado, pianist Rachel's dad, is the elder that the Solianos look up to nowadays. Like Alfonso in his time, Ado writes and arranges for the RTM Orchestra and also plays as often as he can with any of the Soliano outfits. Another "mercenary", yes, but this saxophonist is rather devoted to his daughter's band.
"Times have changed," Rachel chipped in. "I used to follow him; now it's the other way around."
It's a tough job, leading the entire clan when they get together, but Ado wears the mantle well, and his big hope is that he will one day be instrumental in making some Soliano dreams come true.
Rachel has plans to organise the Alfonso Soliano Jazz Festival and is hoping to acquire enough sponsorship over the next two years, and Ado wants to establish what they would all like to see - the Soliano School of Music.
"These are our dreams," Ado said, "and I know we can do it if we put our heads and talent together."
In this case, however, Rachel has the level-headed voice. "What we really need is someone with the business acumen to run it."
Considering the reputation the Soliano clan has earned over half a century and more, the realisation of such dreams would only be fitting.
Or as Rizal put it: "Dad didn't leave us any wealth because making music was more important than making money. But he did leave us with a big name, and it's up to us to do something with it."
Another rare recording of the late Tony Soliano's brilliance at the piano around 1988. Here he performs the ever popular RINDU with Azizah Basri on Vocals and brilliantly exploits the Javanese pentatonic scale into his music.