Astute readers of this fine website may have noticed that the JZ Festival is just around the corner. As the name suggests, it’s organized by the folks behind JZ Club so it’s a jazz-heavy event, but it’s not exclusively a jazz festival by any means. Oh no. Electro, folk, rock, funk and heaps of other genres all get a look in. It’s a chance to see some of the most eclectic and unusual fusion and experimental groups you’re ever likely to catch in Shanghai.
The festival comprises a two-day weekend at Expo Park, and it’s followed hot on the heels by a week of Masters Hall concerts at the Shanghai Center Theater.
So, what should you be looking out for? Here are some of our entirely biased and extremely subjective recommendations no matter what you’re after:
The Electro-Jazz Junkie
You should probably spend most of your time hanging out at the Earth Lounge. This stage has previously been a DJ-only stage but this year it includes electronic crossover acts such as Alec Haavik’s Electro Alliance, Trumpeter & DJ Fu Hwa’s band, and J3; an electro project from local piano guru Huang Jianyi and drum maestro Johnny Joseph. And that’s just Saturday, you lucky people. On Sunday Chekov will be demonstrating how to make funky loops with Ableton and both nights the stage finishes up with a full-on electro experience with Beijing’s Junglemico Project on Saturday and AM444 on Sunday.
The Hippie Who Just Wants to get Folked
If wearing beads, laying down on the astroturf and imagining that you’re in a field somewhere is your vibe, head to the Blue Grass stage. Catch Orbit Folks from Taiwan on Saturday, fresh from being part of Alec Haavik’s Global Friction, chill out for a bit and then get ready to shout along to some drinking songs with Mongolian trad-rockers Hanggai. On Sunday you can enjoy the soothing sounds of Southern Belle’s favourite Bluegrass Duo Arkansas Traveler (hopefully with some Mongolian throat singing thrown in for good measure), and virtuoso harmonica player Brendan Power’s performance in the evening (he’ll also be at the green note stage on Saturday for you harmonica lovers).
The Funkmaster General
What is all this finger-clicking nonsense? Get me some grooves, dammit! Well sir, might I recommend the RH Factor, supplying ‘neo-electric funksoul’ on Saturday evening on the Green Note stage? And what about the Red Groove Project at the East Theatre on Sunday evening? Led by local jazz mainstay and all-round nice guy Lawrence Ku, who we’ve all seen tear it up at JZ Club, who knows what's going to kick off when they have space to really let rip. Theo Croker’s Afrosonic Orchestra, Sunday at 3.30, is probably up your street as well.
The Old-School Jazz Lover
OK, so you’re the hip cat who is taking a day off from listening to Coltrane on vinyl. You’ve put on your best beret and you’re looking for something… nice. Right? Well my groovy friend, you’re spoilt for choice. How about Roberta Gambarini AKA “the best singer to emerge in over 60 years,” according to the Grammy awards? Yes? Then get on down to the Green Note Stage at 5pm on Sunday. You should probably also go and see Coco Zhao, who has teamed up with Swedish sensation Mats Holmqvist (conductor of the JZ Big Band) to create some big bad big band arrangements from his album Dream Situation. Jasmine and her Jazz Men will be bringing some old school glamour to the East Theater at 1pm on Sunday as well. Oh, and you’ll also want to watch Chris Potter, widely regarded as one of the best tenor players of his generation, do his thing with the Big Band at the East Theater at 9 on Saturday. So do your best to check it all out and be hip to the jive. Just, keep it cool man, you dig?
The Latin Lover
Stick around at the River Stage all day Saturday and you won’t be disappointed. They’ve got it all from Tempero Brasil to the JZ Latin Big Band and it finishes up with purveyors of fine Cuban grooves. Mojitos and cigars optional.
Hildegard Lernt Fliegen
Whatever man, I don’t fit into any of your narrow jazz stereotypes. I am an eclectic free spirit! You can’t categorize me!
Well done. You’ve just seen through my cynical method of structuring this article. Go for it! Run wild!
For those looking for something truly unique, my money is on Hildegard Lernt Fliegen, a predominantly horn-based collection of Swiss madmen who don’t have a plan but do have a typewriter, and they're not afraid to use it.
So here's more of the info you need to know...
The Map (click here or on the image for our printable INTERACTIVE PDF map - yep, that's right.)
Click here for for the interactive map with S247's picks
Here are the official schedules, lovingly cribbed from the official JZ Festival site.
SATURDAY (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)
Saturday's schedule (click here (or on the schedule) for a larger image)
SUNDAY (CLICK FOR A LARGER IMAGE)
Sundays's schedule (click here (or on the schedule) for a larger image)
Now... to transport. If you're planning to go by Metro, here's some handy info:
And last but not least, here's a nice map to show you where the hell you go when you get there:
WORDS: PETER JACKSON