FILIPINO jazz musician and producer Bob Aves passed away on the night of Jan. 14 in Bacolod City. He was 64 years old.
“My brother Bob Aves peacefully passed away last night after a long battle with lung cancer,” said Lito Aves in a statement on Facebook announcing his passing.
“Bob has always been a private person and as per his request, his wake and burial will be limited to family and cousins only. Thank you for understanding and for all your kind words of sympathy and condolences,” he added.
Mr. Aves, best known for his jazz fusion style which combined jazz alongside traditional Filipino and Southeast Asian musical instruments, first broke into the Philippine music scene in the 1980s after releasing the rock albums Street Legal (1986) and Strange Storms (1988) in collaboration with singer and lyricist, Goff Macaraeg. Together, they were called R.P. (Rock Project).
The Bacolod-born musician, taught himself to play the guitar in his teens and eventually made his way to the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music before moving on to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where he got a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, major in composition. While in Boston, Mr. Aves studied classical music with Hugo Norden, former head of the Boston University Music Department.
Two years after releasing Strange Storms, Mr. Aves released Welcome (1990) which saw his first attempts at fusing jazz with ethnic elements in songs like “Amo ‘Ni.”
Mr. Aves also made a name in for himself as a musical arranger and director. His page at gracenono.com outlines a prolific number of commercial and educational albums, some of which he produced in collaboration with his then-wife, singer and ethnomusicologist Grace Nono, including: Earth Kulintang (1995) by Aga Mayo Butocan, Metronomad (1996) by Pinikpikan, Isang Buhay (1988) by Grace Nono, and Session Road (2000) by Session Road, among others.
He also founded Tao Music, a music production company which specializes in the release of titles of Philippine culture-based music, as well as various emergent genres.
In 2000, Mr. Aves released Inner Country, a nine-song solo album said to be a “reflection of Bob’s inner world” as, unlike his previous works “which were heavily marked by the high-tech wizardry of multiple layers of sequenced synthesizers, he opted for the top jazz musicians as well as indigenous and world music practitioners of the country to back him up in a bid to present a live performance to promote his latest masterpiece,” said Richie Quirino in his Bob Aves piece on Ms. Nono’s Web site.
Inner Country won six Katha awards including Best Instrumental Album and Best Instrumental Composition for “In Silence.”
The album used many Philippine indigenous instruments such as the kudlong, the angklung, and the kulintang played alongside electric and nylon guitars.
“It’s about time that we Filipinos create a sound that truly represents our layered consciousness shaped by our living history. This is something that cannot be copied nor simulated from other cultures but can only be the fruit of a continuous process of getting to know oneself and one’s environment… To breathe new life to heritage is what I wish to achieve with the music of the Inner Country, in the hope that it will awaken a keen interest in our roots, as well as inform the world of the distinct sound that we Filipinos have, within ourselves,” Mr. Aves was quoted as saying by Mr. Quirino.
The album was followed by Translating the Gongs in 2006 and Out of Tradition (2014). Mr. Aves was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philippine Jazzfest foundation in 2017.
“For many years, Bob and I made music that was heard in many parts of the world. We made history. From 1996 to 2010, Bob and I were married. The life that we shared was much more complicated than what his dream foretold. There were joys and jubilation, but also deep hurts and heartbreak. Out musical collaboration predated and outlasted our marriage,” Ms. Nono said in a Jan. 14 Facebook post.
“Bob, you have blessed the world with your powerful music. No amount of words can express our gratitude for your gifts,” she added. — Zsarlene B. Chua