DJ Post-Pink of KUSF In Exile played all of Taglish on a recent edition of her Innerworld show. Catch the full podcast here.
Karl Evangelista/Grex Quintet — Taglish (self-released, 2012)
I mentioned this one before but wanted to give it a more thorough look, given the free time over the holidays.
Taglish comes across as a mix of jazz and prog, with spirited sax solos by Francis Wong and Cory Wright, among others, and a variety of guitar licks from Karl Evangelista, with shades of blues and classical.
The word “Taglish” — and it’s a real word, not something made up for the album — refers to a spoken mix of Tagalog and English. Like Spanglish. Evangelista explains in the liner notes that the title reflects the personal mix of cultures and mindsets that comes from being Asian-American in general and also to the mix of musical traditions and knowledge infused into the music.
It’s a project inspired by Asian Improv Arts, the organization and record label that’s been producing Asian-American jazz for 25 years.
That range of ideas is evident in the first three tracks. “Iloilo Ang Banwa Ko” is an actual Filipino song. “Hymn” has the sunny sound of South African jazz, primed by John-Carlos Perea’s warm electric bass. (The tune is apparently derived from the Filipino national anthem.) And “Reb” has a short, honest-to-goodness jazz vocal from Scampavia, followed by some bright, sunburst guitar backed by gospel piano chords.
The songs were conceived as a suite devoted to four members of Evangelista’s family — his father, mother, wife (Scampavia), and sister. The “mom” segments carry a “slightly melanchoic tinge,” as he writes inthe liner notes, based on the bittersweet notion of having left home and being unable to return in the proverbial sense.
“Birds” is the song chosen to reflect those emotions; it’s slow and heavy-hearted but with a spirit of hope. Evangelista’s pointed yet restrained blues-guitar solo speaks for the tangle of emotions being represented.
Taglish’s second half slows the tempo down considerably but gets no less interesting. Grex by itself — that is, just Evangelista and Scampavia — gets highlighted on “Night Talk,” a slow piece with a vocal intro.
“Dreams” and “Dreams (pt. C),” towards the end, might be the most interesting songs.
“Dreams” traces a slow line, with time marked out by unison horns while the piano and guitar string complex little statements. It’s got quite the Henry Cow kind of prog-rock air, and it hypnotically draws you in as the musical line bends and winds its way.
“Dreams (pt. c)” puts a jazzy swing on the concept, driven by Jordan Glenn‘s crisp drumming. Here’s part of Rob Ewing’s trombone solo, leading into sax/guitar dual soloing by Wong and Evangelista.