4

The Cotton Club, Shanghai

The Cotton Club, Shanghai
Hrayr Attarian By

Sign in to view read count
On the night of April 15th 2016 the Cotton Club in Shanghai was teaming with young, fashionably dressed locals and intrigued tourists. Despite the overpriced drinks and extra charge for sitting down at a table (even standing at one) music lovers packed the small space. Located in the historic and hip French Concession neighborhood, The Cotton Club made Downbeat magazine's short list of Chinese jazz venues and every traveler's trusty companion; Lonely Planet lists it as the best in Shanghai.

As every music history nerd knows, Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s was a hotbed for jazz in Asia. It is here that trumpeter Buck Clayton lead his first orchestra and local musicians like Li Jinhui put their own unique spin on the imported music. When jazz bars returned to China in the latter decades of the 20th century, Cotton Club was the first to open its doors.

The evening started at 9:30 pm with an intimate set of guitar/voice duets. The music was vaguely reminiscent of husband and wife duo Tuck and Patti's work except that guitarist Greg Smith did not exhibit Tuck Andress' virtuoso improvisational flights. Even though Smith's talent was apparent, he kept the solos brief and close to the themes. The repertoire consisted primarily American soft rock songs layered with a jazzy veneer and peppered with hints of the blues. The singer, Ginger Zheng, had a sensual contralto with raw emotive delivery and an expressive phrasing. It is a shame that she did not stretch out more on these tunes. The result was a pleasant and engaging 45 minutes that, alas, was far from thrilling.

The second set featured Smith leading the full house band, primarily made up of expats. Three guitars and a trumpet made up frontline and the rhythm section consisted of an electric bassist and a drummer. The music was even more pop inflected with breezy, lilting lines and smooth melodies. The individual ensemble members handled their instruments deftly and definite synergy marked their group performance that, nevertheless, lacked spontaneity and a creative spark. The evening's offering was genial and entertaining yet not quite as energetic and stimulating as is anticipated with such a gathering of accomplished musicians.

To be fair, the Cotton Club has hosted impromptu jam sessions with visiting luminaries such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. This particular night may have been unusually low key. Based on the show of April 15th, the Cotton Club is a cozy place to have a few drinks with enjoyable live music in the background. It, however, is not heir to Shanghai's legendary jazz tradition.

Post a comment

Tags

View events near Shanghai
Jazz Near Shanghai
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

More

Jazz article: Ned Kelly's Last Stand, Hong Kong
Roads Less Travelled
Ned Kelly's Last Stand, Hong Kong
Jazz article: The Cotton Club, Shanghai
Roads Less Travelled
The Cotton Club, Shanghai
Jazz article: Club Jazzda: Seoul's Hidden Gem
Roads Less Travelled
Club Jazzda: Seoul's Hidden Gem
Jazz article: Eric Dolphy: A Deeply Dedicated Musician
Jazz article: Art Pepper: West Coastin'
Roads Less Travelled
Art Pepper: West Coastin'
Jazz article: Sonny Criss: Catching The Sun
Roads Less Travelled
Sonny Criss: Catching The Sun
Jazz article: Buddy Tate From Texas State
Roads Less Travelled
Buddy Tate From Texas State

Popular

Read Charles Mingus: An Essential Top Ten Albums
Read Top Ten Kennedy Center Musical Moments
Read Zakir Hussain: Making Music, Part 1-2
Read Meet Gabrielle Cavassa

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.