MANY young people in the current generation are largely unaware of artistes who made a mark on the nation’s past music scene.

Among them, the late Alfonso Soliano ranks as one of the musicians who is respected for his immense contribution to the local jazz scene.

Soliano was instrumental in setting-up the first orchestra for RTM (then Radio Malaya) and popular Western music beats (such as cha-cha and rhumba) to the locals. His protege include famous composers and musicians such as Datuk Ahmad Nawab and Datuk Johari Salleh.

Soliano’s grand-daughter, jazz singer Rachel Guerzo, is spearheading a project to keep her late grandfather’s legacy alive.

The project, (a CD album) titled Alfonso 25, is an album of compositions by the late Soliano made popular in the 50s and 60s by legendary artists such as Asiah Tuah, Zain Azman, Ahmad Daud, Dato’ Julie Sudiro and Kartina Dahari.

Soliano spearheaded the setting-up of the first orchestra for RTM (then Radio Malaya). — pic courtesy of Rachel Guerzo
Soliano spearheaded the setting-up of the first orchestra for RTM (then Radio Malaya). — pic courtesy of Rachel Guerzo

According to Guerzo, the title of the project is basically a play on numbers.

“Alfonso was born on the 25th February in the year 1925 and it’s also been 25 years since his demise,” said Guerzo.

Guerzo, who started playing the piano at a very young age, went on to make a name for herself as a singer in the local jazz circuit and has recorded two solo albums to her name.

“It is a tribute album comprising 25 of Alfonso’s composition, and it will have a double-disc limited edition compilation compact disc to be released in September (next month). The second disc will have eight songs which have been given a new arrangement,” says Guerzo.

New, young and up-and-coming singers in the industry — such as Bihzhu, Lokman Aslam and Ali Aiman — have given a fresh interpretation to some of the songs.

The project is also aimed at introducing the younger generation to the Solianos’ music.

“The reason for having some of the songs rearranged by the modern-day-artists is to re-introduce music to the younger generation,” adds Guerzo.

Guerzo is the executive producer of the CD, which was launched in May this year.

Four of the songs in the CD — Ku Puja Alam (sung by The Guerzos), Gadis Idama (Lokman Aslam), Malam (Bihzhu) and Air Mata Berderai (Ali Aiman) — are available as singles on iTunes.

“We (the production team) opted to release the singles first.

We can keep the interest going, as well as stretch and maximise the publicity throughout the year.

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