Jazz festival remembers Mavis Rivers

The Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival 2018 began with a musical performance that was done to remember renowned Samoan and New Zealand jazz singer Mavis Rivers.

The diplomatic corps, members of the public and jazz enthusiasts converged on the Taumeasina Island Resort’s ballroom last Saturday evening and were treated to a variety of instrumental and vocal songs as well as classical jazz music.

International bands on show that night included The Matt Catingub Jazz Ensemble led by Matt Catingub, the son of the late jazz singer Mavis, and Papana, which is a United States Air Force Band based in Honolulu.

Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival board member, Galumalemana Alfred Hunkin, welcomed guests and praised Matt Catingub on his musical prowess in jazz and his love for performing.

The members of Papana said they were performing at the festival to honour the memory of Mavis Rivers and to cement the friendship between Samoa and Hawaii. Taking to the keyboard, drums, trombone, trumpet, saxophone and the bass guitar, Papana belted out jazz classics like the “Sunny Side of the Street”, and invited the audience to participate by whistling along. A duet performance was also done with Matt joining Papana in singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, which was immediately met with applause from the audience.

Bringing the mood to a slow swing, the band prepared to wrap up, but not before pumping up energy levels again with their rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic “Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m yours)”, which got the audience clapping and some dancing. 

The Mavis Rivers Tribute Band began their show with a video showing the late jazz diva performing in different parts of the world, talking about her career in interviews, and even singing Tofa Samoa.  

The Chargé d’Affaires of the American Embassy in Samoa, Tony Gruebel, said that they want to foster people-to-people connections, which was why they have a music envoy fund, which funded the musicians’ travel to Samoa to be part of the Samoana Jazz and Arts Festival 2018 .  

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The son of the late Mavis Rivers, Matt Catingub, said Frank Sinatra used to call his mother “swinging lady”.

“She was just this little girl from Samoa and there she was, recording with Frank Sinatra,” he said.  

As a young child, Mavis River’s started her son on the clarinet, and told him he should become the next Benny Goodman, and Matt wanted play the drums, but he later excelled in clarinet and saxophone.  

Perhaps the most moving part of the night was when Matt cut a performance of “I got it bad short”, and began to tell the story of how his mother turned to him in a car on the way to a show, and told him, “I think it’s my time and I want to go out singing”. 

Though, Matt told her, “Not tonight, we’ve got too many plans”, halfway through her rendition of “I got it bad that night”, and she got her wish. 

“And its bitter sweet, because that is what she wanted, but still so we decided we’ll finish that song for you tonight, mom,” he said.

He completed the song that night and the rest of the night was decorated with Mavis herself. The creative use of technology incorporated Mavis Rivers’ recordings into a track, which the band played and sang along with, including a duet of “All My Tomorrows”.

Mavis Chloe Rivers was a Samoan and New Zealand jazz singer and she was born in Apia, Samoa in 19 May 1929, as one of 13 children to a musical family. 

In 1955 she moved to the United States. She married Glicerio Reyes “David” Catingub, a Filipino singer and bass player in that year, and they had two sons, Matt, a musician and arranger, and Reynaldo.  

She recorded on the TANZA and Zodiac labels in New Zealand, and on Capitol Records and others in the United States. She was a nominee for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1960 and she passed on May 9, 1992.

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