Age Is But A Number In Music

Meet the very talented teenage quintet who play Jazz

4/1/2015 11:31:52 AM
written By : Maya Tsering Bhalla Print

If you were to close your eyes and listen to a track by the ATS Quintet, you wouldn’t for a moment imagine you weren’t listening to an established jazz band. 

Like something out of a New Orleans speakeasy in the 1950s, the quartet, have enough talent among them to blow older, more ‘seasoned’ musicians, clean out of the water.  ATS is made up of 14-year-old Thomas Mclaughlin on the drums, 16-year-old Arjun Bhalla on lead guitar, Arshan Hussain, 17, on the bass, Stuart McHale on the trumpet, and 17-year-old Sophia Retief on the piano and vocals.

This writer listened to them practicing in their state-of-the-art music studio at Tanglin Trust School, where they study, and was struck by the fact that none of them referred to any sheet music during the three songs they played, including one by Herbie Hancock, and that they were doing so effortlessly. 

For a generation that – pardon the over-generalisation - idolises mass-appeal performers like Taylor Swift, One Direction and Avicii, to name a pedestrian few, it is refreshing to see that these youngsters are so passionate about a genre that was all the rage decades before they were even born. When asked how they could inspire others in their age group to listen to and appreciate jazz, they unanimously chime in with, “Listen to Snarky Puppy!” a band they draw inspiration from. 

Like most fledgling high school bands, the group, excluding a few of the current members, in typical aspiring-musician fashion, had initially dabbled in a completely different and arguably more popular, genre – rock. When that didn’t exactly take off, they realised that they all had strong musical backgrounds in Jazz styles, and so the ATS Jazz Quintet was born. Of course, it helped that they were all good friends to start with. 

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