166

Hong Kong Dragon Club: Take Out

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
What was music like 4000 years ago? Singing with native instrumental accompaniment? Folk songs that told interesting stories? Communicating in the native language while incorporating some form of melody, harmony and rhythm? The music was probably quite different in Asia than in Europe, Africa, or India. Different civilizations developed widely separate tonal foundations and characteristically unique musical instruments.

While common factors such as timbre and expression reveal a "universal language," each region was generally not influenced by the other back in 2000 B.C. Some of the songs used on Take Out are that old. British-born David Packer, who leads the Hong Kong Dragon Club on harmonica and keyboards, selected Chinese folk songs for his project. The songs tell about beautiful places in Nature and teach valuable moral lessons that are passed on from generation to generation. Unlike most singers, the harmonica player has no language barrier to confront him. Thus, he is able to blend with different styles regardless of language facility.

Packer takes the lead on jazz harmonica or piano and trades melodic lines with trumpet, pipa or erhu. The ancient folk songs are transformed. A contemporary nature stems from the incorporation of electric bass riffs, drum backbeats and electronic keyboard wallpaper. Resembling the timbre of a violin, the erhu in Hsin Hsiao-Hung’s hands produces graceful melodies. Similarly, Wong Ching’s pipa offers tremolos and plucked guitar-like melodies. Cheng Man’s guzheng, a Chinese zither, provides much of the harmony for traditional folk passages. The five traditional Asian instruments provide a genuine timbre and style with historical references while the drums, bass and keyboards fold in a contemporary, smooth jazz, NAC flavor.

What makes this project unique is the trade-offs that devlop. Packer, Aristorena, Balbuena, Ledesma and Barker lay down contemporary jazz tracks. Hsiao-Hung, Man, Kong, Chong and Ching provide ancient folk melodies and timbres. But once they’ve established the melody properly, everyone jams. Improvisation on the erhu, guzheng and pipa isn’t much different from the jazz message that Duke Ellington spread around the world. Everyone improvises while swinging madly. Conversely, Packer and the contemporary unit turn to ballad fundamentals to achieve an older Chinese folk music charm on their modern instruments. There’s a give and take involved here that offers hope that one day it’ll all be truly a universal language.

The Hong Kong Dragon Club’s project proves that we live in one jazz world. It’s enjoyable, it’s widely accepted and recognized, and everyone participates in making great music.


Track Listing: Beautiful Island; Green is the Mountain; A Place Far Away; Watering Flowers; Three Gorges of Yang Guan; Azalea; Needle Work; Love Song of the Plain; Just for Tonight; Tale of the Great Wall.

Personnel: David Packer- harmonica, keyboard, percussion, Roland S-50; Rudy Balbuena, Nilo Aristorena- electric bass; Nick Ledesma- drums; Hsin Hsiao-Hung- erhu; Cheng Man- guzheng; Li Tak Kong- yangain; Choo Boon Chong- di; Wong Ching- pipa; Guy Barker- trumpet on "A Place Far Away" and "Watering Flowers."

| Record Label: Xien Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Live in Tokyo" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Tokyo
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "Wise After The Event - Deluxe Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Wise After The Event - Deluxe Edition
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 23, 2016
Read "Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)" CD/LP/Track Review Stille Post (Radio Works: 2003-2011)
by Mark Corroto
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Pale White Shout" CD/LP/Track Review Pale White Shout
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 10, 2016
Read "Duo" CD/LP/Track Review Duo
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 7, 2016
Read "Heartaches By The Number" CD/LP/Track Review Heartaches By The Number
by James Nadal
Published: May 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!