Saturday, January 08, 2011

A new music option

I admit I'm getting a bit jaded with gig-going in Beijing.  Most of the great rock bands of the last decade are either in decline or I'm getting bored with them through over-familiarity.  And - with the exception of the mind-blowing AIS - few of the new bands to emerge in the last few years have made much impression on me.

And jazz has always been very much the poor relation of the Beijing music scene.  The never very successful CD Jazz Café has attempted to reposition itself - with even more limited success thus far, I gather - as CD Blues; and while its sister club East Shore Live Jazz on Qianhai is a great little venue, it seems to have the same handful of house bands in permanent residency.  And the Tuesday night jazz jams at Jianghu seem to have faltered...  Very disappointing.

But somehow or other French harmonica virtuoso Laurent Maur has recently washed up on our shores.  He's currently duetting with a wonderful flautist called Emilie Calmé (it is only with great difficulty that I restrain myself from channelling Tino).  I first caught them doing a few songs together at one of VA's jam nights a month or so back, and had been blown away, very eager to hear more - so I was extremely grateful to my indispensable music grapevine Ruby for tipping me off at the last minute that they were going to do a full show at VA last Thursday.  Alas, in these January doldrums only about half a dozen people turned out to hear them - but I hope they won't be discouraged from seeking other gigs.  I'd love to see them with a permanent residency at East Shore!  It would be good to see them hooking up with a full band, too; at present, they're just playing with a recorded backing track on the laptop, which is OK, but, you know, it ain't got that swing.

I've been digging around on YouTube to see if I could find anything of them, but without much joy.  There is this extended experimental piece (I must pass it on to Crazy John, the man who invariably becomes aroused when he hears the term 'avant garde' used about music) by Octobre, a band Emilie used to perform with back in Bordeaux (though here she's just playing percussion in the background).  And Laurent has posted a few of his performances, the best of which (at least in terms of the video quality) is this, playing with a full orchestra.

["Now, Mr Burgundy, you will play some yazz flute for us." I knew I couldn't resist...]

Well, what do you know?  Laurent and Emilie are apparently going to be back at VA Bar again next Thursday, the 13th (although I have my doubts about the validity of that listing in the latest City Weekend: it's not in VA's programme for this month, and it seems a tad unlikely they would play the same venue two weeks in succession).  In the same - perhaps not so reliable - magazine, we are told that a Laurent Maur Quintet is going to be appearing at East Shore next Sunday.... warming up for the regular Sunday act, pianist Pierre Pradat and his trio.  Again I rather suspect this is a mangled listing: I think I'd place a little bet that in fact Laurent and Emilie are just going to sit in with Pierre's group.  But we shall see.  Either way, it should be well worth a look.
[Aha, I was mistaken on that City Weekend listing for this Thursday - one of those problems that arises from CW coming out on Thursdays.  No-one ever sees it until Friday at the earliest, so it's not widely appreciated that it comes out on Thursdays (and bi-weekly at that; very hard to keep track of its due-out dates, when all of its competitor publications are monthly).  And listings for a Thursday on the cusp sometimes - but not always - make it into back-to-back editions.  I'd just assumed that the new CW, which appeared to have come out after last week's gig, must be referring to a gig this week.  But NO.  Sorry.  The Sunday date (the 16th) at East Shore looks solid, though.]

UPDATE - 12/1/11:  Oh, darn it!  I just heard from Jean-Sébastien Héry, an old friend of Laurent and Emilie, that the pair just had to go back to France at short notice - so Sunday's date (the 16th) with Pierre is OFF.  Hopefully, they'll be visiting again at some point later in the year, perhaps playing a few festivals over the summer.  I am all the more grateful to have heard them play a few times during their brief stay here.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Damn, that dude can play! Very Toots Thielemans. Nice to hear the jazz scene in the Jing is picking up a bit at last.