Thursday, February 15, 2018

Peace Hotel

Another satisfying morning in Asia, premier performance of a Dong folk song I transcribed and then a Philippines song and dance. Again, that sense of the right music in the right place. But along with the given identity comes the curiosity for a new way of being and damn if jazz is not a big part of that! Their enthusiasm for trying it out and their competence in getting in the groove were both equally impressive. Something has changed in China in the last ten years, the sense that they had trouble with offbeat, swing and polyrhythm just ain’t so anymore. Truth be told, they’re quicker than most Americans in Orff workshops at absorbing the rhythms and melodies.

After class, another night out on the town, this time to the Peace Hotel where the equivalent of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, white-haired guys in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s playing at a hotel that featured jazz in the 30’s. However, I have to say it was some of the most mundane music I’ve heard publicly in a long time, the wrong chord changes to some jazz tunes and a bass player who literally played the same note throughout all the changes and believe me, it didn’t fit. At the break, I was allowed to play some piano, starting with my crafted rendition of Tea for Two and now I can add to my resume, “Played at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China. “Whoop-de-doo.

But after the break, they returned with a young singer singing Chinese jazz-like compositions and singing into a microphone from the 1940’s and that was sweet! Felt transported into some old movie, to times that were rife with horrors, but yet some sense of mythological cohesion so far from the circus in Washington. True, Germany and Japan were run by madmen on the rampage, but at least the evil people were recognizably evil and the good at least had the illusion of being good even as they dropped atom bombs on whole cities. Not much consolation for the terrors of the time, but that’s the weirdness of these times, that I can almost be nostalgic for a different brand of evil. Our current version is just plain stupid.

Tomorrow the last day of this course and truth be told, I don’t want it to end. I will come back to Shanghai, but with a whole different crowd and will miss Miu Miu and Ting Ting and Bing Bing and Rong. (Yes, those are their names.) It has simply been glorious.

But now to pack.

(Feb. 8)

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