Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Gig

The latest gig for BossMa will be at the Holiday Inn's new weekly Sunday brunch. The hotel will be hosting a lavish weekly event which is being built up to be 'The Brunch' to go to in Chengdu. The gig comes as a nice change of pace for us, as until now all of our steady gigs had been held at night. This gig also might serve as my first opportunity to eat some bagels and lox in China. At least they better have bagels and lox for this 400 RMB a head meal.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chengdu's March Jazz Update

Now that the New Year vacation is over and students are back in Chengdu for classes my work as a private teacher can resume. I like teaching for two reasons. 1) If for whatever reason gigs thin out, it's a great subsidy. 2) It brings new found interest and understanding, as well as future performers to Chengdu's currently meager jazz scene.

This school term I'm optimistic I can attract a lot more students. The head of the music conservatory attended our last gig and apparently enjoyed what he heard. He has invited me to teach a master class at the university at the end of this month. We also played a show at the school in December (right before everyone left for the New Year) and hopefully the buzz it generated has lingered through the winter.

Between the increase in gigs and the potential to teach a lot more students, March is heading in like a lion for the Chengdu jazz scene! And as my long time readers may remember, there's still that looming idea of opening a jazz bar this spring.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Xinjiang Trip - Part 1

I don't think I did the trip to Xinjiang justice with the one paragraph and the blurry picture I posted the day we got back. In fact, I specifically said I would elaborate more on the trip in the near future. So to make up for my poor journalism I'm going to start a little series about the trip. I have tons of pictures, a few movies, and lots of stories to go along with them.

The following clip is one I filmed in Bole, Xinjiang. It's a small city right near the Kazakh border, about an hour away. In fact two of our hosts (piano player Larry's sister and brother in law) worked as customs agents at the border.* While in Bole we were put up in the government hotel that is specifically used to house the customs officials.

The clip is filmed in a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves great Mongolian food- smoked horse intestines, lamb, candied potatoes, the usual fare. A few ethnic Mongols that were friends of our hosts joined us for dinner and performed folk dance and music right at our table. You'll also see the singer giving a ritual toast to Larry at the end of the song.

UPDATE: I mistakenly thought this song was originally Uyghur, a prominent ethnic group in Xinjiang, hence the title of the video. The confusion comes from the beginning of the video when the man sitting next to me exclaims that the song is Uyghur. Upon further research I have come to the conclusion that this song is of Kazakh origin yet the language is Mandarin Chinese. Thanks to loyal reader, longtime friend, and annoying nitpick Alex (of the I Want In blog) for pointing my mistake. The song is called: "可爱的一朵玫瑰花" which I think best translates to "A Lovely Rose."

*Funny story the brother in law told us: One ordinary day two Kazakh nationals decided to put on an elaborate cow costume and mingle with the herd to cross the border. They made it across without any problem- not one guard suspected a thing. A large bull however noticed the apparently attractive "Kazakh cow" and became so interested that it mounted them. The two fell over, their costume ripped apart, and the Chinese officials caught them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stratification of Jazz Listeners in China

After playing jazz here in Chengdu for nearly a year I've noticed that there are three general groups when it comes to the appreciation of jazz music. The first, and admittedly most fun group to play for, is the Lao Wai, or foreigner. Although meeting an actual jazz fan is rare amongst this group, I imagine the music induces a feeling of nostalgia or at least an escape from the nauseating Chinese pop music that can be found in most establishments. The second group is the educated, middle to upper class Chinese. This group is the most confusing to me. They usually still love their Chinese pop, yet are willing to tolerate jazz, although they don't necessarily understand or even like it. Some however will say that the music makes them "comfortable." The final group is the middle to lower class Chinese. Some of the "Lao Wai" gigs we play are targeted towards this group, and it's amazing how quickly jazz can take a smile off a person's face. I have a picture I will try to upload of the audience at one of these particular shows. Every single person has either a digusted or perplexed look- and that's the few people who remained after the music began. Why are we continually hired to perform this type of gig? I'm not so sure. Of course there are outliers and exceptions, such as the jazz-loving music student, or the nescient foreigner, but for the most part interest in jazz is pretty stratified along these lines. I've heard that different personality traits will lead a person to be more inclined to like particular types of music, but I find the reaction to jazz interesting. The divide along social lines, and the wide spectrum concerning level of interest seems pretty unique. I guess I could see this applying to classical music as well. I haven't put too much thought into the implications- anyone have any ideas?

New Chinese Blog

For anyone who might be interested I just started a second blog, but this one's entirely in Chinese. It's not really about anything- kind of like Seinfeld in that respect, although I'm not sure how funny it is. For now I'm basically using it as an outlet to practice my Chinese, impress my parents, and hopefully eventually use it to attract some local interest in what I'm doing with jazz here. Check it out if you're interested: 驾驶猫博客(Josh's Blog)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Chengdu Jazz; Blog News

Sorry for the recent dearth of posts. The music scene in Chengdu has been pretty quiet since the Chinese New Year with nothing terribly noteworthy to report. Fortunately things look very promising heading into the year of the Rat Cow/Ox (thanks Brent!). The band's schedule will get very busy beginning next month. This is our tentative lineup starting next month:
  • Tuesday- Suidie Music Cafe 碎碟音乐咖啡
  • Wednesday (every other week) - Cafe Panam 巴黎咖啡
  • Thursday (possibly moved to Sunday) - Shamrock 三页草
  • Friday - Little Bar 小酒馆 / The Music House 音乐房子
  • Saturday - Min Shan Hotel Restaurant 岷山饭店 / Suidie Music Cafe 碎碟音乐咖啡
I'm going to make an effort to bring a lot more media to the blog once things get started. I recently discovered my digital camera is capable of recording relatively decent quality movie clips which should finally allow me to bring some life to the music section of the blog. Actually, we are still in the process of mixing the December concert at the Sichuan Music Conservatory. The video came out nicely, but we still have to sync the audio with the visuals.

In fact, I've been getting pressure from readers as well as one of our band members to make some recordings. The original Ma Lao Ban, founder of our band and fellow sax player, Melissa, is currently winding down her contract in Singapore. She has been pushing us to make a demo for use in a press kit. Apparently she has made some connections within the Singapore entertainment scene which could lead to some great opportunities in the future. Also worth mentioning, Melissa has told me that when she returns in May there is a chance she will be accompanied by a very talented French jazz singer...

Well, after being heckled by good friend and fellow blogger, Alex, of the I Want In! blog, I have decided to put a bit more effort into my own blog. I'm going to try to make posting more of a daily event rather than weekly/monthly. After recently getting a few e-mails from readers I've also realized that the jazz world is very tightly knit, and the blog can be a great way to bring interest, people, and resources to the scene here in Chengdu, China. In fact in May we might be getting a drummer from the States to sit in on a few gigs while he travels through on business, and it probably would not be happening had he not stumbled across the blog. So, check back often, and keep me honest!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Back from Xinjiang

The band (minus drummer 小伟) just got back from our Chinese New Year vacation in Xinjiang. I've got no music news to report as our instruments were collecting dust the whole time, but the trip was incredible. I'm a bit exhausted after a 48 hour train ride so I'll elaborate more in the near future. In the meantime check out some pictures.