I lucked out today in Shanghai. After arriving unseasonably early at 5am and crashing at my hotel until 9:30am, I headed out with a few friends to enjoy the beautiful weather, have a few suits tailor-made (less than $200!), visit the bird/cricket market and the wonderful Minsheng Museum. It is deep in the Pudong but totally worthwhile – the tea shop is excellent (make sure to try the fermented tea – the price is 68 RMB for all-you-can drink of 3 different tea varieties)
The museum has just temporary exhibits and until October 31, there is a great small expo of Chi Ming, a local painter. Mostly self-portraits, they were touching in their honesty, the cross-over style somewhere between expressionism and post-impressionism. I liked how he depicted what seems to be a failed past relationship. in Floating Heart to the left, he seemed to have crossed paths with the woman in the white dress and sandals, but being as he is on the train tracks and thus unable to change paths and unwilling to look back, she fades from his memory. All the paintings had this sort of melancholy but not in a heavy or overbearing sort of way. I found the expo refreshing.
There is also a great sculpture museum in an old steel mill in the same complex and an outdoor sculpture garden. Definitely worth the detour to 570 Huahai West Road in Puxi, Shanghai. Actually, there are about 10 or 15 art galleries in there in addition to several restaurants and artists’ studios. And there is a Starbucks just a little further on the same sidewalk in a small shopping center. Note that to use the free wifi – as usual in China – you need a friend with a Chinese phone to get the access code by SMS. Sometimes the friendly employees will do this for you as well, you just need to ask.
Anyway, as I walked out of the museum, I noticed a large poster advertising the 10th annual JZ Festival and remarked that Marcus Miller was playing only a few hours later! After a slight adventure in trying to find a wifi to get the address in Chinese for a taxi driver, my friend Seb and I headed over to the site of the World Expo Shanghai 2010 for the show. It was only 280 RMB (36€) and we arrived about 20 min early – time to scoot almost up front and wait for Marcus to appear. He is traveling with a sextet: Marcus Miller – bass, bass clarinet, Alex Han – saxophone, Adam Agati – guitar, Brett Williams – keyboards, Lee Hogans – trumpet, Louis Cato – drums. The band was TIGHT! My iPhone died so I couldn’t write down the setlist. After a hot and funky intro, the band settled into a few funky numbers and then cooked with Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde. It was awesome. I had never seen Marcus live and to watch him jam on bass so close up was spectacular. I saw Avishai Cohen on standup bass earlier this year which was amazing, but the raw energy of Marcus (who despite being 55 does not look or act a day over 5) and the way he coaches and encourages his young band was remarkable. Alex Han started out with some humble solos but Marcus approached him and this seemed to set him on fire. On Dr Jeckyl, Marcus started playing bass clarinet while Alex switched to soprano sax and it was beautiful. I found it interesting that Marcus was wearing a pork pie hat and sounded very much like Pre on the bass sax and the Alex solo here was blistering. The Chinese crowd exploded in cheers and hurrahs. Adam Agati on guitar in his Nirvana t-shirt was occasionally subdued but on Dr Jeckyl exploded with a great solo complete with distortion, harmonics and some nifty fingerwork. Brett Williams was awesome – he may be the youngest guy in the band but whether comping behind the band or soloing (there was an early piano solo on, was it Detroit or Run for Cover?) which was particularly outstanding. Lee Hogans did a fantastic job on trumpet as well – even nailing the Miles Davis’ solos on Tutu before the encore. I really liked how Marcus would approach all of these young virtuosos during their solos and dance to their playing or comp behind them or just cheer them on. It seemed to me that he was carrying on the old jazz tradition of bringing up the next generation just as Miles did with him some 25 or 30 years ago. Louis Cato was solid on the drum kit showing some consistent chops. The encore of Come Together brought the house down – everyone soloed their butts off and we were screaming out in the crowd. I think the only things I regretted here were that Brett only had the one solo on piano (despite his synth solos being excellent in and of themselves) and that Louis never got a solo. In any case, watching Marcus jam is one exciting and fun experience. Marcus treated us to an intensely fun and rewarding 2h show.