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Christy Doran: New Bag, New Tricks

Ian Patterson By

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One of Doran's more striking collaborations has been with Chinese pipa player Yang Jing, with whom Doran realized a beautiful duo recording with the simple title of No. 9 (Leo Records, 2012). Jing, a soloist in the Chinese National Orchestra for the past decade, married and has lived in Lucerne since 2007. "Lucerne is a small city, so sooner or later we had to meet," says Doran. On the 10th anniversary of the jazz club Jazzkatine, Doran played with New Bag and subsequently in a duo with Jing for the first time. "The sparks flew, and we decided to continue," he recalls of that first musical encounter.

Nevertheless, it took another three years before Doran and Jing had a program to record. "The combination of Chinese pipa and the electric guitar needed compositions to bring out both musical approaches in a good way," explains Doran. "Playing with Yang Jing reminds me of playing with the overtone singer Boris Salchak from Tuva in the '90s. Then, I also just prepared a musical surrounding for Boris to play and sing his songs. Some of them really had an Irish touch. I mentioned this to him at the time, and he responded that long ago the people of Tuva had travelled west and also landed in Ireland!" Says Doran, laughing, "Well, that's his explanation. I suppose all ethnic musics are somehow connected deep down."

Certainly, the haunting track "Salu Abend" could almost be from guitarist Ry Cooder's Paris Texas (Warner Bros., 1985). "I guess there's a link coming from the pentatonic scales which are close to the Blues," says Doran. "'Salu Abend' is an improvised tune. 'Moving East' is an older tune of mine. I wrote it, as I recall, when I was a soloist with Reto Weber's Percussion Orchestra in Hanoi, Vietnam. We played with the Phon Lam Orchestra, and the musicians said my composition 'Moving East' sounded like a tune from Northern Vietnam."

The one non-original on No. 9 is Joe Zawinul's "In a Silent Way." "To me, it always seemed clear that I was interested in playing atmospheric music with Yang Jing," says Doran. "Here is where we totally meet. The idea of playing 'In a Silent Way' with her came from the fact that this summer OM will be playing at a festival in Switzerland called Alpentöne Festival, which means the sounds of the Alps. Of course, the music has to be in some way Alpine, so we'll be playing a one-hour suite called 'In a Silent Mood,' based on Joe Zawinul's 'In a Silent Way.' Having already worked on this piece made it very easy for me to play a special version with Jing."

In concert, Doran and Jang Ying also play Chinese folk tunes and Hendrix's "Little Wing." With Ying aiming to study a Masters Degree in Western composition in the autumn and Doran learning more about the subtleties of Chinese music with each passing gig, theirs is a collaboration that promises to bear more fruit in the future. "The music," acknowledges Doran, "is still evolving."

For now, the majority of Doran's energies are centered on New Bag. When Doran talks about the band's music, he talks of the "thrills," "ecstasy" and "intoxication" of playing together. "Nowadays, a lot of musicians are working with the parameter of reduction," says Doran. "It reminds me of jazz in the 1950s, the cool-jazz era. Of course, I see the positive side of reduction, but sometimes, for example, ambient music seems to me boring and simple—in the end just easy-listening music. So although I am very concerned about the lyrical aspect in our music, I like to have the freedom to take off." He explains, "It's like a good game of football. It's all very well if there are a lot of technically skilled players on the field, but some have to be able to score."

How Doran finds the time or energy to play in other bands, like Kaama—an advanced song concept of singer Katia Mair—in a duo with drummer Marc Halbheer or with his brother Dave Doran in XL Target is anybody's guess. There are two more CDs in the pipeline: one with the mostly acoustic quartet Bunter Hund and another Hendrix tribute with Studer, Tacuma and singer Erika Stucky.

Doran is also at something of a loss to explain his busy agenda. "Albert Mangelsdorff, the German trombone player who I played with together in 'Percussion Orchestra' once told me that it isn't true that one has less to do as you get older—on the contrary, that there would be more and more to do," says Doran. "It seems he was right. I have never worked so much as at the moment with all the various projects. Music-wise, I have so many interests." He laughs, "I will have to learn to say no!"

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