Saturday, December 8, 2007
Another American in Beijing
In the summer I watched some jazz performed by a trombonist from New York.
And last night I had the chance to watch another jazz great, Matthew Shipp perform.
He's considered one of the leading avant garde jazz scene in the Big Apple and I can see why.
We went to a club hidden along Dongsishitiao, next to a temple. And inside was a beautiful large space with some couches and a bar, then some bar tables and chairs near the stage.
A local jazz band warmed up the audience and a few of those musicians played at the summer gig I went to.
After an hour-long set and then a 15-minute break, Shipp wandered on stage from the back, sat at the baby grand piano and then started playing -- non stop -- for an hour.
His large hands ran over the keys effortlessly and then at times it looked like he would stumble on them but in fact they were calculated and precise. The only way for me to describe his music is like a Chinese painting -- there were patches of dark spaces and white ones, brush strokes that were wet and dry, all coming together to create a vibrant piece.
At one point he stood up to play and then reached over and strummed the strings of the piano. It was as if he was having an internal conversation with himself.
You can't listen to Shipp's music like a background tune -- audience has to concentrate on his music and his performance all in one.
Apparently catching him at the Montreal Jazz Festival would have cost $50. But in Beijing, we were able to see him for 50RMB ($6.76).