Jazz lands in China

By Jeff Beresford-Howe Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/5 17:13:40

One of the oddest things in the music biz in recent years has been the institutionalization of one of the greatest American arts, jazz. The music is leaving clubs and bars behind and landing in formal spaces like SF Jazz in San Francisco, US.

The two biggest American players in this trend have opened outposts in China - the Blue Note Beijing and Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai. I confess to having mixed feelings.

On one hand, Chinese jazz promoters have left themselves wide open to this kind of incursion by failing to consistently bring top international jazz acts to the China.

These new US venues are pouring talent into Beijing and Shanghai. The Blue Note has already brought in Kamasi Washington, and the Blue Note Beijing has become a premier place to hear great jazz.

The brand new Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai has work to do. Located in a shopping mall on the tourist staple street Nanjing Donglu, the place is cold and uninspiring. Its first big programming splash, pairing Joe Lovano and Joshua Redman with the Aaron Goldberg Trio, landed with a thud. The worrisome part of all this is its effects on the existing Chinese jazz scene.

Both of these locations are charging US prices for their shows - between 400 yuan and 500 yuan ($60-$75) for 75 minutes of music, vacuuming  up a lot of time, money and attention from the growing Chinese jazz scene.

The East Shore Live Jazz Cafe in Beijing and the JZ Club in Shanghai have been nurturing Chinese talent for years, producing world-class players like trumpeter Li Xiaochuan whose latest album Initial was recorded in Shanghai Soundhub Studio and included first-rate contributions from Chinese players like guitarist Zhang Xiongguan and pianist Bai Tian, is spectacular.

East Shore Live is a soulful little place tucked in among the bars on Qianhai Lake. You can practically reach out and touch the players. JZ Club, newly relocated to Found 158 in Jing'an , a subterranean bar-and-restaurant crawl, is a palace for jazz fans with its excellent bar, great sound and room to move.

Here's hoping the jazz scene is big enough for everybody to prosper. It would be a real tragedy for China if the local clubs lost out to big-time foreign money.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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