9/10: Ted Lo and Eugene Pao
Pianist Ted Lo and guitarist Eugene Pao were meant to be paired – not just on our list, but also as close friends. “It’s a funny story,” says Pao, in his rat-a-tat syncopated delivery. “I heard about Ted when I came back to Hong Kong from New York in the early 1990s. It was at [the now defunct] Jazz Club in Lan Kwai Fong. I saw him play, and I was blown away.” Lo, his voice soft as a glancing drum brush, chimes in. “After we met, we realised our moms had known each other 40 years.”
Better late than never. Long before they met, Lo and Pao have been, individually and together, Hong Kong’s standard-bearers for jazz, consummate professionals who play regular gigs around town and always stay right in the moment, leaving all who watch wanting more. For Lo, it’s his silky, sweet-spot-hitting pounce; for Pao, it’s his fearless, relentless hunt for ingenious melody.
Both men sharpened their chops abroad and have played with music giants such as Chick Corea (Pao), Astrud Gilberto (Lo), and Herbie Hancock (both). Between them, they’ve been composers, arrangers, songwriters, and producers in genres other than jazz. And they’re eager ambassadors for Hong Kong’s music scene. Earlier this year Lo and Pao went on a government-sponsored tour of Europe to play gigs in cities like Berlin, Rome, Paris, and Zurich.
Their prominence springs from nothing less than shed and sweat. “Jazz is a very hard thing,” Pao says. “You’ve got to learn the language, see the complexity, understand the modes and scales.” Lo picks up the point like it’s a sweet familiar riff, “If you know more jazz vocabulary you can be a more articulate musician.” Here’s to Ted Lo and Eugene Pao, and the eloquent language they speak.
Eugene Pao plays Peel Fresco on Friday 10 and Friday 17, and at the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival on November 17 at Backstage. Ted Lo plays the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival finale concert at Queen Elizabeth Stadium on November 20.