More of the 'good old and promising new' at jazz festival

Updated: 2011-08-30 07:51

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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 More of the 'good old and promising new' at jazz festival

Beijing Nine Gates Jazz Festival, running from Sept 9-18, features a number of young talents like Black Hot Pisces. Provided to China Daily

It was a memorable, if windy and rainy, closing night at the 2010 Beijing Nine Gates Jazz Festival in Beijing's Sanlitun Village, as France's Pierre Trio, pianist Xia Jia and six other musicians took the stage to present a bright fusion of music.

Most of the audience comprised those who were attending for fun, rather than being serious jazz aficionados - and this year should be no different.

Organizer Huang Yong, a veteran bass player and the founder of Nine Gates Jazz Festival, says everyone is in for a treat, as Nine Gates runs from Sept 9-18.

"Keeping the good old and bringing the promising new" is the theme of this year's program, which will include a mix of young Chinese and other Asian talents, as well as internationally renowned musicians.

Among the 30 groups, 14 are from China and 16 from countries like Japan, the United States, France, Argentina and Belgium. They will perform at nearly 50 concerts in various venues across the capital.

There will also be a number of workshops during the 10-day event, providing opportunities for further communication between audiences and musicians.

"Perhaps, years ago, most audiences didn't know why they should listen to jazz. They might have doubted China had jazz," Huang says.

"Now, mainstream audiences still have no idea about jazz, or their understanding about that music genre is not complete, and even wrong. That is not good or bad. It's just how jazz audiences here are and how jazz is growing up in the country."

Even so, Huang is satisfied.

"Though the festival has not made money, it's not losing money more importantly, we are happy because unlike the audiences of 2006, the first year of the festival, more people love to listen to jazz and learn about it."

Huang adds he is now confident about introducing more international jazz musicians, such as Rootman, the Thailand ensemble formed in 2008; and Czech band Vibe Fantasy featuring legendary vibraphone player Radek Krampl.

"Local audiences may never have heard their names, but it doesn't matter. As long as they come to listen to the musicians play, they will get a fresh experience."

Huang will play fusion with local jazz musicians such as saxophonist Liu Yuan, a former member of rock 'n' roll godfather Cui Jian's band.

Liu has opened two jazz clubs in Beijing, CD Jazz Cafe and East Shore Jazz Bar, two of the venues for this year's festival. Liu will also perform with his quartet, offering original jazz works.

Xia Jia and his band, who have performed at the festival since its first year, and Beijing Big Band, the first Chinese original big jazz band, of 16 members, will also perform at the festival.

In addition, there are several young Chinese jazz groups, such as Fresh Elements, which fuses hip-hop, rock and jazz; and Black Hot Pisces, which mixes neo-soul, Latin and acid elements.

These young local jazz powers are "adventurous, freely interpret and are independent", Huang says.

"Maybe you will feel strange after watching their performances and doubt whether it's jazz. It doesn't matter. That's how you become a jazz fan," Huang says.

Other highlights include Japan's Honda Masato, a young saxophonist; and Puerto Candelaria, an innovative and daring Colombian jazz group.

As part of the continued efforts to expand the jazz base, Huang has set up a range of venues, from large music halls, universities and popular shopping areas to small clubs.

"Audiences, either professionals or passersby, will feel the freedom of jazz and stay for a while to enjoy the music."

Venues include Chaoyang Park Center Island Theater, National Library Concert Hall, Jiang Hu Bar, East Shore Live Jazz Cafe, CD Jazz Cafe, Yugong Yishan, and Beijing Contemporary Music Academy.

China Daily

(China Daily 08/30/2011 page19)