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All the Jazz

By Jiang Yuxia (Global Times)

08:36, September 14, 2012

Austrian jazz quartet The Flow is one of six foreign groups slated to perform. (Photo/GT)

While American saxophonist Antonio M. Hart and veteran jazz pianist Meddy Gerville from France's Réunion Island are the headliners at this year's Nine Gates Jazz Festival in Beijing, a string of young performers and local ensembles promise to inject the annual event with a more intimate, fresh vibe. With 27 Chinese and international bands joining the celebrated occasion, jazz will be heard nightly in a number of theaters across the city from tonight until September 24.

Named after the nine ancient city gates in Beijing, the festival will mark its seventh year by opening at the Cultural Center of Xicheng District this evening with two young jazz bands. The festival comprises of performances at three venues in Xicheng district, with two-hour jazz performances nightly.

Twenty-one Chinese jazz bands will join six others from the US, Austria, France, Poland and Czech Republic by playing improvised music with styles ranging from century-old New Orleans jazz to big band swing and bebop, the latter characterized by its lively tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation.

The opening show will be performed by the Abu Jazz Trio featuring 13-year-old pianist prodigy Dai Liang and the Li Gaoyang Jazz Quartet led by its namesake 18-year-old saxophonist.

"This is our deliberate arrangement as we want to show to the audience that the jazz world in Beijing is becoming younger," said Huang Yong, organizer of the festival and also a bass player with the Golden Buddha Jazz Unit.

The Abu Jazz Trio will perform works by legendary French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani and Dai's rearrangement of a series of classical Latin jazz pieces. Li Gaoyang will treat audiences to authentic US East Coast jazz, noted for being slightly more edgy than traditional forms of the genre.

It is inevitable a growing number of young musicians with classical music training have embraced jazz as there has been a better atmosphere for the music in past years, said Huang. With more local musicians playing jazz and a growing number of performances and recordings, younger musicians have more exposure to the imported genre.

"Young musicians are sure to attract younger audiences, and we hope that their love for jazz can influence their peers and introduce more people to the music," Huang said.

While jazz has been in China since the 1920s, it has never become as popular as other genres of Western music such as pop and rock. Local modern jazz musicians didn't make their mark in the country until the mid-1980s.

Apart from Shanghai, which historically has a jazz culture that emanated from its days as an international metropolis in the 1920s and 1930s, few Chinese cities have much of a jazz scene. According to Huang's estimation, the number of people in Beijing who regularly attend jazz performances stands at fewer than 10,000.

The biggest hurdle in holding the festival, Huang conceded, was securing financial support from the government. Each night of the festival is estimated to cost $50,000.

Last year 70 percent of total tickets were sold for the festival, while half the tickets have been sold for this year's event, according to venue coordinator Feng Xiang. "We have been in talks with the Xicheng district government for six months. It pulled out from offering financial support, but fortunately has provided venues for us," Huang said.


When: 7:30 pm, September 14-23

Where: Cultural Center of Xicheng District, 147 Xizhimennei Dajie, Xicheng district; Central Conservatory of Music, 43 Baojiajie, Xicheng district; National Theater of China, 277 Guang'anmenwai Dajie, Xicheng district

Tickets: 100-680 yuan

Contact: 4006-228-228
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