Jazz at Lincoln Center Shanghai has now been open for a couple years now, and sadly I have only attended two events so far. The first, which I also blogged, was a special performance featuring jazz saxophonist extraordinaire Joshua Redman, backed by Aaron Goldberg and his band. Last Thursday, my wife Mengxi and I went to see the performance of Wynton Marsalis and his big band, who were touring in the Asia Pacific. They’d just toured Australia and were doing a tour of China including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and yes, even Hangzhou!
For the princely sum of around 200 USD we had booked tickets for the event well beforehand. I also helped arrange for the AmCham group to connect with the club and they came earlier that evening. We showed up for the 10 pm concert and had seats right near the stage. It’s a small club so no matter where you sat, you were in for a huge treat.
The band started the set with a funky version of Thelonius Monk’s song “Jackie-ing” arranged by one of the band’s saxophonists, Ted Nash. Mr. Marsalis said a few words to introduce the song. “Don’t let anything stand in the way of your enjoyment and your expression of it!” He told us, and the concert was on.
Following that song, they performed bassist Carlos Enriquez’s arrangement of a song by early jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton, who according to Mr. Marsalis was the “first true intellectual in jazz, he could articulate it. He introduced a Spanish tinge—Afro Latin rhythms” to the jazz idiom. The song was “The Crave,” and it started out with a Cuban rhythm led by pianist Dan Nimmer. The song blossomed into a bluesy tune blended with Latin rhythms and lasted around ten minutes.
Then they played a fairly brief arrangement by Wynton Marsalis of the Dave Brubeck song “Bluette”, which he called a “mix between European classical music and jazz.” After that was another Brubeck composition. “Dave was in Turkey and he heard some musicians playing a rhythm” Mr. Marsalis explained. “He put the rhythm together with some blues, using the Rondo form A-B-A-C-A-D-A-E.” This was trombonist Chris Crenshaw’s arrangement of “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, which started out beautifully with Dan Nimmer playing the opening piano part, before blossoming again into a blues tune.
Afterwards, they went back to Thelonius Monk and played an arrangement by saxophonist Sherman Irby of “We See”, with “jazz ambassador” Mr. Walter Blanding (a regular at the club) performing with the band. This was followed by Duke Ellington’s tune “Big Fat Alice’s Blues” with Sherman Irby on sax.
The set concluded with Ms. Camille Thurman singing and scatting and playing saxophone on a version arranged by trumpeter Marcus Printup of the Gershwin classic “Oh Lady be Good.”
As the band marched out after the final song, Mr. Marsalis stopped and played a soulful solo while hovering right above our table. After the concert, we spoke briefly to a few of the band members, and we had a brief chat with Mr. Marsalis. It was a truly blessed night.