Friday night Qi and I went to the first public performance ever of the Shanghai Jazz Orchestra, a big band in Shanghai’s 30’s and 40’s style, in the Shanghai Art Theatre. Since 1949 China did not have any big bands, so this was the first time in almost 60 years that a big jazz band played in Shanghai. In the 1940’s Shanghai was China’s New Orleans, and the best performances took place at the Paramount (still an entertainment venue, next to Jing’an Temple). The Shanghai Jazz Orchestra is trying to recreate the old atmosphere, by wearing the exact same white suits as their predecessors.
The performance was excellent. The evening started with a jazz combo that played several tunes, and after a short break the big band made its entree. Although some of the players seemed a bit nervous to play for a big audience, they did very well. Conductor/director Rolf Becker had a great performance, leading the band, announcing the songs, and playing himself as well. He was the only foreigner in the band, all others are Chinese.
The band played lots of famous songs from among others Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller (In The Mood!). Also there was a magnificent swing dance performance by two couples from Shanghai Swings. My wife was so inspired that she plans to sign up for courses! It was a great evening, and the best news is that they plan to do this once a month. So if you like jazz, big bands and swing you now have the opportunity to see top performances again in Shanghai.