Some may call it being flavors of the month, but when in a musical desert like Hong Kong where venues with good ‘live’ music are as rare as five star hotel bars with lounge singers being Norah Jones one minute and Liza Minnelli are ubiquitous, a new name quickly becomes the talk of the town. And if the singer is young, female and from the States, the natives get even more restless, the jungle drums beat harder and faster and the curiosity factor comes into play.

Often this leads to that audience I often think are 21st century beatniks, man, who, like, you know, wanna be Maynard G Krebs hip, exclusive and clap like monkeys at every solo turn by a musician and high note reached by a singer no matter how sharp or flat.

Of course, this happens on a larger scale when all those young clones appear on television talent shows and “do” Mariah or Whitney or, these days, Adele and with “Heroes” and “I Will Always Love You” being prime examples of prime time butchering that even “Bones”- and I love her- would have a hard time putting together.

These days, the talk is about 24-year-old Ali McGuirk. Sadly for me, this very good singer performs at Sevva, the awfully pretentious and mightily expensive restaurant owned by Bonnie Gokson, a lady with a real and very honest love for music, especially, jazz.


For me, however, Sevva, despite the five-star cuisine, despite all the thought, toil and trouble and location which makes it almost scarily opulent, it doesn’t work for me and, I think, doesn’t work for intimate music which, if into labels, can be called Acoustic Jazz or just plain music without the frills. Sevva also attracts some of Hong Kong’s real knobs and snobs. It’s all a bit like trying to out a scene from one of those gawdawful product-placement “Sex In The City” movies, but without any interesting people. Just knobs like these.

It’s unfortunate for Bonnie Gokson who has never been some fleeting dedicated follower of fashion. Instead, she has put her money where her pouting lips are in the name of music and lost a shitload of money for her trouble.

Has she been had and conned over the years? I’d be mortified if she hasn’t as she must have tried swimming with sharks in the music world who saw her as some rich chick with an open cheque book and a musical groupie from cash rich Hong Kong. And now, she has bought Ali McGuirk to Hong Kong for a month long stay. As for this bit of weirdness at Sevva, I have no idea suffice to say, it’s NVB- “Not Very Bonnie.”

So for local audiences, from going from flavors of the month and many years like Ginger Kwan, the ubiquitous Gigi who has left Hong Kong so many times, it’s like she’s always been here, Tess Collins and Nicole Russo, we have arrived at Ali McGuire, a singer-guitarist from Boston and who has the chops, but perhaps need a real musical direction without this heading towards “jazz” and using her lower-register voice in other ways. Jeez, other than Nikki Yanofsky, I hate it when young singers start to sound older than their years.

Still, Ali McGuire is youngish talent in the making and needs to stay well away from this “jazz” thing so many don’t understand and think they do and, instead, listen to artists like the late great Kenny Rankin.

One thing I have noticed about “chick singers” in, especially, Hong Kong, is a combination of flakiness, balls of confusion when going down their career paths mixed with insecurities and needing that financial foothold, all of which often means a half-arsed approach to making music and which i have heard too many times during their performances.

Another thing: Vocal doodling over two chords and the same old beats has become turgid, ponderous and lazy. Let’s hear some fucking tunes, shall we and some real songs from everyone like Jimmy Webb, Leon Russell, Bacharach and David to Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Tin Pan Alley and The Brill Building. Jimmy Webb, man, he’s something special- and who started writing classics in his teens which is why if you’re in your Thirties and still trying to get a recording deal, the odds are that you need to find a new gig.

In the meantime, despite the knobs and snobs and pretentious assholes at Sevva, check out Ali McGuirk on Fridays from 6-9pm and Saturdays from 9pm to midnight.

If only Bonnie Gokson started up a small, intimate club like Gekko – but without the Nigerian pimps and dealers hanging about near the joint- and made it a pleasure for real music lovers to visit, stay and play.

But it’s all so transient in Hong Kong and plastic fantastic hyperbole chic to cheek. Hell, even I am fucking fed up of this place these days with its wankers, cheaters, users, abusers and three-time losers. Perhaps it’s time to bail. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with more Jimmy Webb and the Hal Blaine he mentions in his interview above and one of the most versatile and creative drummers I have ever heard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *