Saturday, October 9, 2010


This evening I went to Chang An Grand Theatre, not to see Chinese Opera for which it's famous, but for the opening night of Beijing Ninegates Jazz Festival. Jazz and I don't get on that well. Call me a philistine, but I've never really warmed to trad, dixieland, swing, bebop, free etc. A little 'Miles' is OK, some jazz rock, a touch of ECM, even a bit of jazz-funk, but that's about it.

Opening act was a swing band from Germany who played Dean Martin / Benny Goodman / Henry Mancini type stuff which I'm afraid left me cold. But the headliners were Chinese. Jazz was quite big in Shanghai in the 1930s but little heard in the half century that followed. Since the 1980s it's opened up somewhat, mostly inspired by a sax player called Liu Yuan. Anyway, tonight's band were Golden Buddha Jazz Unit, led by pianist Kong Hongwei. Mostly it was fairly standard, albeit sophisticated, Western-influenced stuff, but it got interesting when traditional Chinese instruments were introduced, particularly the 3-stringed san xian played by Liu Lin, and also when Liu Yuan guested. But it was too formulaic for my tastes. Perhaps when I pass my half-century I'll 'get it'. Maybe opera too.

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