Temple Town’s newest band is The Angkor Rat Pack, a suave outfit started by long-term expat and muso Mike Mahalo along with Australian Graeme Quirk and inspired by the jazz and swing era personified by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin et al.
“I had the idea to do Angkor Rat Pack for a few years now, and I’ve been looking for a vocalist,” says pianist Mahalo. “I wanted to do that swing era thing and then I met Graeme. His voice is just amazing. We shared the concept and decided to do it.”
Graeme Quirk says, “We ran into each other and realised we’d both had the same idea for a really long time. Twenty years ago I was sending postcards back home of the Rat Pack standing under the Sands Casino sign in Las Vegas.”
The duo was later joined by Heritage jazz nights regular Trick Charb on saxophone, and drummer Phil Parkinson.
The foursome plays a mix of typical Rat Pack-era songs – a lot of Frank Sinatra – and some poppier songs from the ‘60s that have been given a swing and jazz twist.
“We have a slightly modified version of Rat Pack because we’re now in 2013,” says Mahalo, “And we found that the audience responds much better to the Frank Sinatra and the swing than the Dean Martin and the laid-back thing.”
He adds that the band has taken the Rat Pack essence, but started arranging some songs that the original rat packers never performed.
So at the band’s recent gig at New Leaf Café’s Sunday jazz brunch, diners were treated to ditties such as Daydream Believer by The Monkees, and the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations – the latter featuring some impressive high note harmonising by drummer Parkinson.
Mahalo says so far there has been an enthusiastic audience response, particularly with the re-worked numbers.
The Pack’s debut performance was on Halloween at Heritage Suites Hotel at its Jazz in the City night. There is also a New Year’s Eve performance at a major new hotel on the cards, and Mahalo says there is a lot of interest from other hotels.
“It’s been fantastic, going astonishingly well,” he says of the response. “Halloween at Heritage was packed, and it was buzzing. We were in tuxedos, it was fun. I can see that some of the higher end venues might be interested in this.
“I heard a rumour that there is an interest for black tie events in Siem Reap, whether there’s music or not. So I think black tie is going to come to Siem Reap, and we’re kind of ahead of the game.”