Jazz Friends – Jazz Friends

Jazz Friends was founded by Lito Molina. Born Ezequiel Molina in 1930, he learned the rudiments of music from his father Professor Antonio Molina who was also a fine composer from pre-world war two days. He played Clarinet but also excelled at Alto Saxophone to the point he drew comparisons to Paul Desmond of Dave Brubeck’s combo.

During the mid fifties Lito and some Jazz sidemen would hold Friday afternoon jam sessions at the Del Rosario Brothers mini stage on Aurora Boulevard. Completely informal, other professional and amateur Jazz musicians would be invited by Lito to join the session which usually ended with a terrific ad lib by all backed by his 5 piece combo.

Lito Molina Jazz Group
The Charlie Byrd Trio jams with the Lito Molina Jazz Group at the U.S. Embassy ballroom in Manila, Philippines, 1975.

Following on from these jam sessions they performed more regular gigs at Jazz haunts like Cafe Indonesia (1960), The Shadows (1964) and The Manila Sheraton from 1967 to 1971. The Seventies saw the group concentrating on concerts with the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center as their base. Through these concerts more and more young people were introduced to Jazz and became converts. The whole movement snowballed in 1975 when they had regular stints at the music meccas of the young such as Pension Filipina, Villa Rocco, Le Bistro and Bacchus.

In 1981, with the leadership of Roman Jun Cruz, Jr. who was then Chairman of Philippine Airlines and an avid Jazz fan and record collector, Lito was asked to form an All Star Filipino Jazz Orchestra to take part in the annual Monterrey Jazz Festival in Monterrey California. Lito made sure he picked the best reliable musicians which included Angel Pena, well known composer arranger and outstanding bass player, Fred Robles, a veteran pianist who had wide exposure even abroad playing with American and Japanese Jazz sidemen, as well as Roger Herrera, bass player and one time band leader. Invited also were the Posadas trio – Romy, piano, Ricky on drums, and wife Rita Posadas who took her place as the official female vocalist of the band. Lito was looking for Emil Mijares who was a progressive Jazz pianist and composer but he was supposed to have gone to the U.S. for some business. So, the old standby Piding Alava who was part of the original Jazz Friends came along instead.

In the mid eighties the Jazz Friends regularly played at the Boulevardier outlet at the Hotel Intercontinental in MakatiAfter that they moved to the Manila Garden Hotel. The contracts in both hotels were simply Sunday afternoon and early evening gigs which went well since the senior instrumentalists played the old favorites from the 20s up till the eighties, showing their versatility.

Sadly Lito Molina passed away in 1998 due to complications of kidney failure.

This album features Lito Molina on Alto Saxophone, Tony Velarde on Drums and Percussion, Piding Alava on Electric Piano and Synthesizer, Tiny Umali Jr on Bass, Larry Matias on Trombone, Omeng and Fred Concepcion on Trumpet as well as many more of the country’s top Jazz Musicians.

 

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