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Shanghai Swings and Sings
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From September 25 to 29, the He Luting Concert Hall at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music will be the main venue for the city's jazz festival. Weng Shihui previews some of the bands and artists who will be performing.


September is the month for jazz in Shanghai. In addition to the Shanghai Oriental Art Center's weekend jazz salon, artists from all over the world will stage a jazz fiesta in the upcoming "Jazz It Up Festival 2007" from September 25 to 29 at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.


Originating in New Orleans, the United States, jazz was originally played by black laborers using African rhythms. Now, it is played everywhere - in cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and even in churches.


Zhang Xiaolu, a saxophone artist from Shanghai Conservatory of Music who will perform in the festival, recalls that when he was in Boston, he went to a church near the university every Sunday afternoon to enjoy a live jazz performance. "The feeling was great and unusual," he says.


Artists are now beginning to combine jazz with classical and ethnic music from around the world. "The point is musicians can share a lot together in the process of creating new jazz music, though they may be a world apart in musical style," says trombone artist David Beatty from the US who will join the Shanghai Conservatory of Music's Big Band for the festival.


Jazz is truly becoming a fusion music that can be mixed with European classical, hip-hop, Latino music and ethnic music. There are also artists creating melodies with a sea snail in a jazz band.


"Jazz It Up" starts with a swing party, a funky jazz performance by the Funk Unit from Sweden and Nils Landgren. Known as the "Man with the Red Horn," Landgren has merged Swedish folk music with jazz.


The concert features joyful melodies with the company setting a dancing beat that will invite the audiences to dance with the music.


"It is not the kind of concert where audiences sit quietly and put their hands together at the end of the performance," saxophone player Zhang says. "It is a party that invites everybody in, everyone should be involved and enjoy themselves."


The experience of jazz study in Boston enriched Zhang's understanding of jazz emotionally. "For me, playing and listening to jazz has a similar feeling to walking in outer space," he says.


It is true that the "fun" element is probably the most fascinating part of the music and the one that has attracted so many classical instrument players to start to express themselves through jazz.


One great thing about jazz is that a song can be played in a different and fresh way each time it is played. What is also great is that both the performers and audience share the moment of creation at the same time.


"Jazz is never the same way twice. Each improvised solo is a new composition being created right before your eyes," says Beatty. "It is like looking over the shoulder of a painter while he paints or sitting before the sculptor as he molds a lump of clay into a piece of art."


On the second day of the festival, a jazz trio of top pianist Michael Kocour, celebrated double bass player Catalin Rotaru and drummer Dom Moio will perform.


Regarded as "one of the most experienced pianists in jazz," Kocour is active on the jazz stage around the world. Fans say he "plays with poise, a refreshingly straight-forward attitude and his music radiates joyous enthusiasm."


Finnish artist Pekka Pylkkanen and his Tube Factory band will give a fresh Nordic spin to jazz.


Grammy winner Rusty Higgins, who played in the film "Chicago," will conduct the concert with a special appearances by trombone player Beatty and American singer Sandra Kaye.


There are few better ways to learn about details of interpretation than to see a master lead a rehearsal and coaching session. As such, the festival also provide six "master classes."


Shanghai Jazz Festival

Date: September 25-29, 7:30pm

Venue: He Luting Concert Hall, 20 Fenyang Rd

Tel: 1348-200-9209


(That's Shanghai September 20, 2007)


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