Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Shanghai Peace Hotel Jazz Band debuts at Northsea Jazz 2011

Chinese band surprises at festival with a unique concert!
The musicians have the time of their lives .......
Hans Koert

The Peace Hotel Jazz Band debuteert op Northsea Jazzfestival (Nederlands) The Shanghai Peace Hotel Jazz Band debuts at Northsea Jazz 2011 (English)
The 2011 North Sea Jazz Festival , one of the most extensive covered jazz festivals of the world, was scheduled from Friday the 8th up to Sunday the 10th of July, 2011 at the Ahoy building in Rotterdam (The Netherlands). I joined the festival on Sunday the 10th of July and I love to share with you two great concerts, both scheduled at the Madeira hall: The Peace Hotel Jazz Band and the concert by piano legend Barry Harris. Today the Peace Hotel Jazz Band.

The Peace Hotel Jazz Band ( photo courtesy Hans Koert) (cell phone photo - the festival doesn't allow regular visitors to bring in their camera's)
The Old Jazz Band Peace Hotel as it is named officially, better known as the Peace Hotel Jazz Band was added only a few weeks ago to the festival schedules. This Shanghai based orchestra was labelled by the festival as "de oudste (jazz)band" ter wereld (= The oldest (jazz) band of the world). Well, I leave that to them, as I know that our Dutch (Original) Victoria Band from Breda claims to be the eldest one, founded in September 1924, with trumpet player Willy Smith as its first director, as the house band of a Breda high school. Well, never mind, dear bought and far fetched are dainty for ladies, the saying goes. The Peace Hotel Jazz Band is, for 30 years, the house band of the recently restored to the nines Shanghai Peace Hotel, an almost colonial art-deco hotel.
At the Madeira I sat next to a man who had heard the band in concert in 1999 while for business in Shanghai and he loved to hear them in concert again.
The band had six members ( and a vocalist) and featured at the Madeira stage Jibin Sun on saxophones, Honglin Gao on tenor saxophone, Mengqiang Lu on trumpet, Jingyu Zhang at the piano, Mingkang Li on bass and Zhengzhen Bao on drums. They had invited a Chinese woman vocalist, whose name I missed ( something like Yesnen Cheng) who lowered the average age of the men on stage with more then dozen years I guess.
Peace Hotel Jazz Band ( f.l.t.r.: leader and trumpet player (here with a Brazilian rhythm instrument) Mengqiang Lu, Jibin Sun and Honglin Gao. At the backgrpound bass player Mingkang Li ( photo courtesy Hans Koert) (cell phone [photo)
These men
were invited to visit the prestigious Rotterdam jazz festival as part of a documentary that will be made. A film crew recorded the concert, but also the trip of the old boys and the story of their lives. The eldest of the orchestra, trumpet player and band leader Mengqiang Lu was born in 1921, which learns that they lived in China during the Japanese oppression at World War II and the Chinese Revolution by Mao Zedong. It might be, that the documentary makers have had the successful 1998 documentary Buena Vista Social Club by Wim Wenders in mind, but any comparison won't hold. The Cuban veterans of the Buena Vista Social Club played their music in a long Cuban musiccal tradition - these six men of the Peace Hotel Jazz Band are just unique, even in China, playing a kind of western music the hotel manager may have heard years ago in prestigious hotels elsewhere in the (western) world. To be clear - they didn't play jazz music, nor traditional jazz as heard during the 1920s and 1930s in the US and Europe. Maybe you could say that they tried to play jazz-related music - a kind of western entertainment music you could here in hotel lobbies and Tea-dansants during the 1930s. Music on the edge of jazz ...... For a short moment I had to think about a May 1981 concert at the Turfschip in Breda by the Neptune Band of Zimbabwe, that played a kind of authentic unspoiled "New O Orleans style" music and surprised and caused confusion the audience .............
The Chinese vocalist of the Peace Hotel Jazz Band ( photo courtesy Hans Koert) (cell phone)
The concert by the six Chinese musicians could be split in two parts. Half way the concert, which was scheduled for half an hour, but lasted almost an hour (!), the young Chinese guest vocalist joined the band, which gave the band's music a boost ....... During the first half they seemed to be a bit nervous
and insecure - obvious due to the culture shock, as their only concerts outside their safe band stand at the Peace Hotel seem to have been a few years ago at the Hua Ting Hotel, a few block away, for some weeks as the Peace Hotel was restored. The music they played were stock arrangements and although they played some unspecified tunes I could recognize standards like Perdido, Glenn Miller's In The Mood, Besame Mucho and As Time Goes By. Due to nerves, I guess, the audience was regaled with some unexpected blue notes and even a piano solo Cecil Taylor, who played on the same piano in the same hall two years ago, would have liked, but the men on stage had the time of their lives ........... They really enjoyed the applause of the audience, as if they were not used to play for so much people that listened intently and forgave their untuned notes now and then .........The Chinese vocalist was introduced after half a dozen tunes as a guest vocalist and she forced the band in the role of the accompanist, a part that might have been written better for the band. Fact was that she had a pretty voice. She sung four traditional songs from the 1930s and 1940s like Give Me A Kiss, Flowers in the Night and Fly Me to The Moon. The Peace Hotel Jazz Band finished their world debut outside the Shanghai Hotel lobby with a special surprise for the Dutch audience, as our Chinese vocalist announced, and .......... it was. I've never heard (Als de Lente komt dan stuur ik jou) Tulpen Uit Amsterdam( = Tulips from Amsterdam), or Tulpen Uit Rotterdam as the announcer mangled the title, played with so much enthusiasm as a thank-you to the audience that had listened so attentive and full of sympathy. Be sure, the festival surprised us with this great authentic band.
For me it was a great start of (my) North Sea Jazz Festival Sunday - I had the time of my live too - with tears in my eyes............

We are so lucky that visitors of the Peace Hotel loved to share its hotel band on film. Love to show you the orchestra at the Shanghai bandstand some years ago, with the same opening tune as in Rotterdam 2011.
Hans Koert

The North Sea Jazz Festival of Rotterdam, was scheduled from the 8th up to the 10th of July 2011. Jazz fans complain that they hardly can find the music they love to hear between all those scheduled rap, soul and rock concerts ... The festival loves to surprise, they say, and on its last day, Sunday the 10th, they did with the Chinese Peace Hotel Jazz Band from Shanghai; six aged musicians, who played their dated music, had the time of their lives. And so did Keep Swinging! A tear-yerking concert. Keep Swinging loves to share with you this kind of surprising events. If you love to be the first to read it, follow it at Twitter or ask its free newsletter: mail me .

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