4 Great Acts to Catch at the JZ Festival This Weekend

By Bryan Grogan, September 10, 2019

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Returning for its 15th year, Shanghai's JZ Festival has become one of the standout dates on the annual music calendar here in China. Bringing together a group of jaw-droppingly talented musicians for three days again this year, fans of sensual, physical music can delight. While music is the main offering over the course of the three days, families with young children can also enjoy the fact that young ones under the height of 1.4-meters can get in for free. What a way to get them into jazz while they’re young, right? 

Here we profile four of the very best bands and artists taking to the stage this weekend.

1. Marcus Miller

Image courtesy of promoter

Bass guitarist Marcus Miller has worked with the best of them: Miles Davis, check; Herbie Hancock, check; Luther Vandross, check. His most recent album, Laid Black, was his second to come out on Blue Note after Afrodeezia, which saw the composer delve into the music that ruminates on African soil. Laid Black, on the other hand, took a microscope to African American culture, giving praise to genres such as funk, R&B, trap, soul and more. Tracks on the album could be found in the club, at a live music venue or simply in your living room, showing off Miller’s vast versatility. While the bass guitar is a cornerstone of jazz music, Miller’s mastery of the instrument is phenomenally clear on Laid Black, as he dips and dives to depths that are almost inaudible. 

Marcus Miller will play at JZ Festival on both Friday, September 13 and Sunday, September 15.

2. Jaga Jazzist

Image courtesy of promoter

The spectacle of seeing nine talented musicians take to stage at once is not to be missed. This group, coming from Norway, were founded all the way back in 1994. Begun by brothers Lars and Martin Horntveth and friend Ivar Christian Johansen when the three were teens, Jaga Jazzist have become known for their grand cinematic approach to making music, developing a style all their own in the process. Well-regarded for their experimental approach to jazz and nu-jazz, Jaga Jazzist’s music brings together a delightfully wide array of sounds. Listen to Livingroom Hush, the album that BBC named as the best jazz record of 2002, for an introduction to their style of play. It’s very hard to disagree with that assessment as the Norwegians take listeners on an intense journey through sonic wonderlands, all the while maintaining a sense of cool, urbane mystique. 

Jaga Jazzist will play at JZ Festival on Saturday, September 14. 

3. Viento Terral with Andy Hunter

Image courtesy of promoter

Viento Terral are all about horns. Teaming up here with trombonist Andy Hunter, the latin-music quintet are bound to leave listeners spell-bound by their mastery of rhythm. While a relatively new group, Viento Terral have already made waves on the global jazz and latin music scene with their debut album Eh! Neeky! Hunter, on the other hand, has plied his trade as part of the Mingus Big Band, the Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Jazz Orchestra and more. Hunter’s wide array of musical interest have seen him team up with European acts, New York-based groups, as well as a few Latin bands. He has also taught and been part of the jazz faculty at a number of universities around the US, so his knowledge is strong. 

Viento Terral with Andy Hunter will play at JZ Festival on both Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15.

4. Tia Ray and Soulmates

Image courtesy of promoter

Having begun her career as a background singer all the way back in the early ’00s, Tia Ray’s solo singing career took off in earnest in 2013 when she took part in The Voice of China. Her gorgeous vocals earned her a lot of fans throughout China during her time on the show, and her singing chops were later exhibited on records such as Tia and TIARA. As one of the most happening pop singers in China at the moment, Tia Ray was selected to be an ambassador for this year’s JZ Festival, and represents one of the best and most exciting artists on show this September. 

Tia Ray and Soulmates will play at JZ Festival on Sunday, September 15.

Sep 13-15, times vary; RMB460-1,380. Maxus Datong Music Valley. See event listing.

[Cover image courtesy of promoter]

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