Classy Jazz, via the Philippines from Don Heckman with Los Angeles Times, Calendar Section E10

When Charmaine Clamor's warm, luscious contralto slips into a rhythmically seductive version of "I'm in the Mood for Love" or purrs through the tender lyrics of "The Very Thought of You," there's no doubt that a first-rate jazz talent is present. Her first album, "Searching for the Soul" (2005), announced the arrival of an impressive new vocal artist who worked her magic with material including Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday," Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love," Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance" and Gordon and Warren's "You'll Never Know."

What is surprising about her singing, with its very real sense of jazz authenticity, is the fact that Clamor is a Filipina, born in the provincial town of Subic-Zambales. Her first contact with anything remotely jazz-related came while she played piano to accompany her mother's vocalizing on kundiman (Filipino torch songs). It didn't take long, however, before she was on her way to becoming the first Filipina jazz singer with a recording heard on more than 100 radio stations across the U.S.

On Saturday and Sunday, Clamor will be one of the headliners in the second annual Filipino-American Jazz Festival at Catalina Bar & Grill. If jazz and the Philippines seem an unlikely combination, think again.

The music has built a considerable following in the islands since the post-World War II swing music days. And Clamor is among a growing number of Filipino jazz artists who have begun to attract international attention. Among those who will appear at the festival: keyboardist-composer Emil Mijares (known as the "grandfather of Philippine jazz"), singers Mon David and Sandra Viray, alto saxophonist Julius Tolentino and jazz ukulele player Abe Lagrimas.

by Don Heckman, for Los Angeles Times, Calendar Section E10, DECEMBER 07, 2006