New Club: JZ Club

By Lena Gidwani, November 26, 2015

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The lights are low. Soft murmurs abound while appreciative glasses clink with ice. Piano keys start to tinkle. There’s an acoustic rumble from the drums. A lad in high-waisted trousers and a suede pork pie hat steps on stage. He picks up his saxophone. With gusto, he rips out a short, melodic phrase. It’s warm and rich, with clarity and consummate ease. The others jump in, ephemerally crooning the melody forward. It’s time for yet another night of jazz in a venue most synonymous with this musical sound, and more important to the genre than anywhere else.

At the end of Party Pier, adjacent to the Zhujiang Beer Museum, is JZ Club, housed in a colossal cask-shaped building aptly named ‘the Bucket.’ It sports the same moniker as its famed parent, JZ Club Shanghai, whose space is crucial to the history of jazz in China. For the past 11 years, it has hosted nearly every major player in the genre, and unlike so much else in the country, it remains a classic – untouched by the forces that turn destinations into tourist traps and sap the character that distinguishes them in the first place. 

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It helps to have China’s crusading jazz impresario Ren Yuqing at the helm, too. A bassist who abandoned rock in 2004 to start the brand, he is the man behind the annual JZ Music Festival, the second largest of its kind in Asia. Not content with just being the center of Shanghai's jazz world, he’s opened clubs in Hangzhou and Wuhan and masterminded the inaugural Guangzhou Jazz Festival, staged this past October in collaboration with the Xinghai Concert Hall. 

Coinciding with JZ Club Guangzhou’s grand opening, the debut featured international headliners like Victor Wooten, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Boi Akih, as well as rising domestic artists, all in the hopes of elevating China's jazz scene on a national scale. 

Speaking of elevation, the Guangzhou chapter is a high-ceilinged theater; an after-dinner concert hall with a bar. Spiral stairs lead to the main room, where the stage is encircled by soft concave walls that lean to support the shape of the cask. Thick red curtains hang behind it, framing the grand piano and a menagerie of instruments.

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With two levels of balcony seating and an opulent 1920s feel, there’s little on the side of unnecessary flourishes. Instead, the room is intimate and informal, with dim glows and wooden tables so close to the stage that there really are no bad seats. 

A wide range of tipples complement the bluesy vibe: Glenfiddich 18 Year (RMB80/glass, RMB1,680/bottle) and Rémy Martin XO (RMB120/glass, RMB1,980/bottle) go down smooth, while quenchers like Coronas (RMB45) and mojitos (RMB60) satisfy. 

Jazz enthusiast or not, JZ is the type of place where you walk in and leave everything else behind for your own little world of musical, speakeasy wonderfulness.

Price: RMB100

Who’s going: Acoustic buffs and artsy types

Good for: Live jazz and jives, post-dinner nightcaps 

> For address, see listing.


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