Pianist Rene Paulo will fly in from Hawaii to play with his son Michael Paulo for the first Asian Heritage Jazz Festival on June 20 at the JACCC.
Pianist Rene Paulo will fly in from Hawaii to play with his son Michael Paulo for the first Asian Heritage Jazz Festival on June 20 at the JACCC.

Many of us know the opening lyrics of the popular jazz standard of the World War II-era “Sentimental Journey”:

Gonna take a sentimental journey
Gonna set my heart at ease
Gonna make a sentimental journey
To renew old memories.

The performance of Michael Paulo and his dad, Rene, at the inaugural Asian Heritage Jazz Festival will takes us on this sentimental journey. It’s happening on Saturday, June 20, at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, produced by saxman Paulo of Apaulo Music Productions.

Rene Paulo, known as Hawaii’s most beloved pianist, is flying in from the Aloha State to appear in his son’s jazz festival. Michael Paulo is very proud to say that his dad is a Hoku Lifetime Achievement Award honoree for his contributions to the music scene, presented by the Hawaii National Academy of Recording Arts.

The influences of his parents in the music industry was everything to him. He says: “I used to hang out as a little kid at their rehearsals and my dad’s band members were like uncles to me and at times we all went on the road together on holidays.”

Paulo likes to think that he got his stage presence from his mom and his virtuosity from his dad. “My dad is definitely the first generation that made inroads into jazz when he toured with his own band during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s with my mother, Akemi, as vocalist.”

According to Rene Paulo: “Michael’s commitment and dedication to his craft resulting in his wonderful accomplishments has brought us great joy and makes us immensely proud of him. It seems he was destined to be a saxophonist. Thinking back when he wasn’t yet two, he would position himself under the grand piano while I was practicing. And as he listened to me practicing he’d have a wad of cotton bunting between the juncture of his thumb and index finger while sucking on his thumb. To this day, I still don’t know where he managed to find a roll of cotton every time. Maybe his thumb was like the mouthpiece of the saxophone, come to think of it! Rather amusing, don’t you think?”

Father and son will combine their Filipino heritage through the music of a favorite Filipino song, with a special jazz arrangement by Rene for them to perform that night. The popular song “Dahil Sa Iyo” is by Mike Velarde Jr., written in 1938 for the movie “Bituing Marikit” and sung by the “King of the Philippine Movies,” Rogelio de la Rosa. A version with English-Tagalog lyrics, recorded in 1964, was a hit in the U.S. and continues to be popular in Filipino communities on American soil.

“With my lifelong passion for jazz, I want to host an event unlike any other that focuses on the Asian culture embracing an American art form, jazz,” says the younger Paulo. “As America is a melting pot of cultures, it is important in the assimilation of those cultures to embrace things that are uniquely American. It is through this that we can become a part of the mainstream culture.

“Also, in most instances Asian Americans aren’t readily associated with jazz. The festival aims to change that perception by featuring as many of the best Asian jazz performers here that we can assemble. We will have the biggest lineup of Asian jazz artists ever in the U.S.”

Featured artists: Jeff Kashiwa (saxophone), June Kuramoto of Hiroshima (koto), Pauline Wilson (vocals), Ming Freeman (keyboards), Danny Jung (saxophone), Kimo Cornwell of Hiroshima (keyboards), Derek Nakamoto (keyboards), Boy Katindig (keyboards), Justin Klunk (saxophone), Ner de Leon (saxophone), Tateng Katindig (vocals), Kemeya Seward (vocals), Yu Ooka (guitar), Fred Schreuders (guitar), David Inamine (bass), Ben Rietveld (bass).

Rob Fukuzaki, the weekday sports anchor for ABC 7 Eyewitness News in Los Angeles and host of the post-game show “Sports Zone,” will serve as the festival emcee along with actress Tamlyn Tomita, whose recent TV credits include “Teen Wolf,” “Resurrection” and “Glee.”

“First-generation Rene opened the doors for Asian jazz artists through his popular band while his son Michael is broadening the journey by bringing together talented Asian jazz artists to the stage on June 20,” event organizers said. “We hope everyone will come and support this historic event with 16 world-class Asian jazz artists, including Rene, completing Michael’s journey.”

JACCC is located at 244 S. San Pedro St. between Second and Third streets in downtown Los Angeles. Doors open at 2 p.m. VIP reception hosted by Cherrystones starts at 2:30 p.m. Performances begin at :45 p.m.

The festival will feature food, vendors and wine tasting. San Antonio Winery is going to create some fun with their grape-stomping booth and giveaways.

Tickets are $125 for VIPs (meet-and-greet luncheon included); $55 for gold seats (reserved seating with padded chairs); $40 general admission (open seating). For reservations, go to www.tix.com. For more information, visit www.asianheritagejazzfestival.com.

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