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New generation of jazz

Andy Yong
Andy Yong

Published: 9 December 2015, 3:27 PM

He took the unconventional route to become a guitarist.

Five years ago, Gregory Teo was a metal head doing covers of guitar solos in his bedroom. Today, he is a member of five different bands and has shared a stage with his idol guitarist Simon Yong, and will be playing with saxophonist Corey Manders next.

But those are not his proudest achievements.

Gregory, 19, said: “Recently I had a concert with the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band at the Esplanade Recital Studio. I felt there was something so special there that could not be replicated. That was the proudest achievement in my life so far.”

Gregory, also known as Greg, picked up the guitar when he developed an interest in music at 14. He felt that it was the best medium that allowed him to express himself.

“Back then, I hated music of the now generation, like pop and such. I thought heavy metal was the way,” said the third year music and audio technology (DMAT) student at Singapore Polytechnic.

GREG STAYED TRUE TO METAL BY DISREGARDING SOCIAL NORMS AND KEEPING HIS HAIR LONG. PHOTO CREDIT: GREGORY TEO

As a secondary school student, Greg had difficulty paying for his guitars and gear, so he took up part-time jobs to supplement his passion for music.

Citing jazz guitarists Guthrie Govan and Wes Montgomery among his idols, Greg said: “My first job was at McDonalds when I was in secondary three. I worked there for a month just to get enough money to buy a decent guitar that cost me $200 or $300. I also worked a lot of odd jobs, from being a mascot to giving out flyers just to pay for my gear.”

“I am lucky because I am the youngest child and my parents give me more freedom. While they are worried, they still support me,” added Greg, who comes from a family with no musical background.

After noticing their son’s huge interest for music, Greg’s parents encouraged him to study music in Singapore Polytechnic. He coped reasonably well with school while juggling his gigs. In his own words, studying music and audio technology “was all connected”.

As a year one DMAT student, Greg had no idea that his life would change in a mere two years. His biggest transition was when he went from playing metal to jazz when he joined the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band .

“I could shred and play really fast, but when I entered jazz, I felt like I was starting music all over again,” said Greg.

“JAZZ IS SO DEEP THAT I HAVE NOT EVEN SEEN HALF OF IT YET.” PHOTO CREDIT: GREGORY TEO
“Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band is a CCA where I found a whole family of people who share the same beliefs I have. Singapore is a very sterile country and it is not easy to find others with the same interest in music,” said Greg, who occasionally indulges in a game of DOTA in his free time.

He also started forming bands with his course mates and played at bars to gain recognition. Soon, he was playing gigs at Irish pubs like Muddy Murphy’s and Molly Malone’s. To date, he has played hundreds of gigs, earning two to three thousand a month. His current bands include Shrink The Sun and Plush which are professional bands consisting of a few course mates and friends.

Greg no longer works odd jobs to pay for his gear. Earlier in June, he got sponsored by German guitar company Duesenberg – the same brand that endorsed renowned acts such as The Eagles and John Mayer.

GREGORY WITH HIS DUESENBERG STARPLAYER TV RUSTY STEEL.
When asked about his dreams, Greg said he wants to have a proper dialogue with great musicians on and off stage: “I think I am slowly getting a hint of what’s to come, but there is still a whole world out there to explore.”

“These musicians were the people I looked up to in the scene and I am finally getting the chance to play with them for events,” said Greg enthusiastically.

When asked about where he sees himself in the future, the jazz convert said: “I am not really worried about how I will be like in 10 years time. No matter where I am in life, I just want to be always chasing music.”

You can catch Greg’s gigs on Thursdays at Fumee, Millennia Walk, and on Fridays at Merdandy’s, Haji Lane.


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