Most youths were not even born when Steve McQueen, the famous late American actor dubbed “The King Of Cool” of the 1960s and 1970s, died in 1980. Nor do they typically appreciate jazz, which they commonly associate with labels like serious/boring/old. The Steve McQueens, a group oflocal musicians, hope to change these preconceived notions.

Then again, they’re not entirely a jazz band, so much as a self-proclaimed NeoVintage Souljazz outfit, describing their one-of-a-kind, unheard of genre as “a meeting point between the traditions of jazz and what we interpret contemporary music to be,” as the band said in an interview with Bandwagon online.

In a more simplistic musical jargon, the closest description of their genre would be Jazz-Funk with influences from the likes of Amy Winehouse, James Brown, and Theonlonius Monk.

The eclectic quintet, a product of diverse musical backgrounds, played an hour-long set at the Esplanade’s Recital Studio to a 200-strong crowd consisting of mainly working adults on Jan 24 as part of the Late Nite Concerts held on the last Friday of every month.

Despite coming together only in April 2013, these musical maestros have played at venues such as Blu Jaz Café, Sultan Jazz Club, and LASALLE College of the Arts (where Berklee-trained keyboardist-composer Joshua Wan teaches).

Taking the stage was 18-year-old Aaron James Lee (the youngest member of the band) with his complex drum grooves with bassist Jase Sng joining in shortly before Wan (keyboard), and Fabian Lim on the saxophone followed respectively as they showcased their sophisticatedly composed intro “Unqular”. The edgy Eugenia Yip makes an appearance to helm the show just moments after.

That fancy entry was only a snippet of what they were about to flaunt for the rest of the night.

The frontwoman, who had previously sang in a Jazz trio with Jonathan and their original bassist, was dressed in a lacy black dress and possessed amazing vocal control that would remind anyone of the late Amy Winehouse.

Her soulful vocals, when overlaid with added reverb and echo effects, while married with the combination of vigorous keys alongside the smooth saxophone, a groovy running bass line, and a steady backing drum beat had jazz lovers in for a sweet treat.

Unlike the 2 to 3-minute tracks we’re familiar with, most of the quintet’s numbers lasted more than 5 minutes, with the exception of “Dreaming”, which was a frenetic and high-tempo track that lasted more than 3 minutes, as the band mates effortlessly took turns to showcase their musicianship throughout the 8-song set list demonstrating their perfected chemistry.

The mature audience played their part by ensuring a roaring applause and cheers right after every song throughout the night, particularly those with extended musical interludes.

“Thank you for being here tonight. I hope you’re at the right show,” Eugenia joked as she introduced the band’s debut EP “Einstein Moments”(which was released last September) before playing “Walls”, a love song from the album.

Expected shouts for an encore erupted as the band exited the stage after playing their last song. And of course, the audience got what they asked for,,as the band delivered a cover of “Wonderwall.”

Their interpretation of Oasis’  classic hit made it their very own as the 5 reinvented the 1995 single, infusing jazz and soul elements in the rock anthem.

If there’s one important note to take home that night, it would certainly be that it’s not impossible for a local Souljazz band to be established in the music scene in such a short span of time with the band recently announcing their set during the launch party for the SEA Games 2015 in February as well as many other gigs in the coming months.

Whoever said that jazz was a dying musical direction on our little red dot?

Set list:
1. Unqular (Intro)
2. Tell Me Something Good (Stevie Wonder Cover)
3. Summer Star
4. Dreaming
5. Wound Up
6. Walls
7. Rain
8. Wonderwall (Oasis cover) (Encore)

Photos courtesy of Harriet Koh
Preview image courtesy of Roddie Chua