Out of a small town called Shao Yang in the Hunan province of China comes the exotic Dream Situation, by jazz vocalist Coco Zhao. Zhao's parents specialized in traditional Chinese opera, and his own background was based on Western classical music. His journey into jazz took flight around 1995 in various clubs in Shanghai, where he garnered acclaim.
In many ways Zhao challenges the stereotypical jazz vocalist image (dated love songs crooned in smoke-filled rooms) with music steeped in a unique heritage and infused with his own youthful interpretations. Though he sings the lyrics in Chinese (translated into English in the liner notes), Zhao's distinctive singing transcends cultures and is perfectly matched by an excellent band called Possicobilities. The recording succeeds in cross-pollinating Asian vocals and contemporary American jazz idioms.
These resounding performances include memorable work by arranger and violinist Peng Fei; the music soars in both altitude and attitude on songs like "Full Moon, Blossoming Flowers," with a depth filled with emotion and life. The musicians' astute education of jazz is clear as they work with Zhao's enticing voice on a variety of styles, from the metro-hip "Unavailable Love" to the Latin bossa-nova ballad "Yearning."
The swinging "I Want Your Love" seems to be thrown in for good measure, but tunes like "If Without You" are where the band's luster displays its warmest glow, making use of transient syncopations to accompany Zhao's poetic lines. The recording concludes with the captivating piano vocal duo "Three," whose translated lyrics include the following verse:
The sky made a wow to mother earth.
A meteor thereby streaked
across the sky
and went through the dream...
Dream Situation, one of this year's true gems, sets itself apart from the typical jazz vocal recording.
Track Listing: Full Moon, Blowing Flowers;
I hava a Tale;
I want you Love;
If without You;
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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