JZ Spring Festival Preview, plus our chat with JZ Club favorite and headliner Lawrence Ku

By Andrew Chin, April 29, 2015

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For the second straight year, JZ Spring brings jazz to Jing’an from April 30-May 2. As part of their Shanghai Theatre Concert series, Red Groove Project leader and JZ Club favorite Lawrence Ku performs a rare solo show. We chatted with him a couple months ago about his new album, 'Pictures.' See the full JZ Spring Festival preview below.

Best known for consistently bringing the funk to the JZ Club as leader of the 10-piece Red Groove Project, Lawrence Ku is showing off a different musical side with Pictures.

“Trio playing is a lot different,” he explains. “Everybody has more responsibility and there’s even greater communication involved.”

Describing it as “more of a modern jazz record,” the live album was recorded over four nights at the JZ Club. While bassist E.J. Parker and drummer Nicholas McBride are mainstays of the group, award-winning organist Steinar Nickelsen and drummer Chris Trzcinski sit in for a couple of songs. 

The disc mixes originals like Ku’s four-part ‘Pictures’ series with rearrangements of jazz standards like Bill Evans’ ‘Never Let Me Go.’ It’s the latest addition to the city’s mounting jazz discography which includes recent albums by singer Jonas Seetoh and sega-fusion favorites Noukilla.

“We’re privileged in Shanghai because we have the JZ Club where we can play original music whenever we want to,” the Los Angeles native says, laughingly recalling gigs at home “where the band members outnumbered the audience.”

Since moving to Shanghai in 2005, Ku has been racking up assignments. He recently served as the musical director of Taiwanese pop singer Shunzai’s album and toured with Karen Mok. In addition to being principal of the JZ School, he’s a member of Alec Haavik’s Friction Five and Toby Mak’s electronic jazz-fusion project, TTechmak.

He’ll be among the city’s jazz staples taking part in the second annual JZ Spring Festival running from April 30 to May 2.
“When I first started playing here, everyone was mainly playing standards,” he says. “Now, there are tons of bands and everyone’s writing their own music.”

// Lawrence Ku concert: May 2, 8-10pm, RMB80-380. Shanghai Centre Theatre.

JZ Spring Preview

Tina May

JZ Spring returns for its second year with a series of free concerts at Jingan Park, Jingan Temple Square and Jing An Kerry Center, plus three headlining shows at Shanghai Centre Theater (pre-sale tickets available at the Shanghai Centre Ticket Booth). Here's the full breakdown:

Asian Jazz All-Stars
Organist Jeremy Monteiro has recorded more than 20 albums and is regarded as Singapore’s King of Swing. He’s performed alongside luminaries like Bobby McFerrin and James Moody, while forming a number of jazz groups like the etno-fusion band Asianaa, which opened for Simon & Garfunkel. For this show, he leads an all-star group that includes Toby Mak (trumpet), Eijiro Nakagawa (trombone), Eugene Pao (guitar), Hong Techatana-na (drums), Tots Tolentino (saxophone), Li Xiaochuan (trumpet) and Nik Xue (alto sax) through a set of swing and fusion. Shanghai favorites Coco Zhao, Jasmine Chen, Jonas Seetoh and Jade Lee will guest on vocals with Chen and Zhao serving as the show’s host.
// Apr 30, 8pm, RMB80-380. Shanghai Centre Theatre.

Tina May

May is one of the finest jazz vocalists the UK has ever produced and has the awards to prove it. She was the Critic’s Choice at the 1998 BT Jazz Awards and the 1995 British Jazz Vocalist Awards, while receiving a London Outstanding Young Musician Award in 1993. A soprano with a three octave range, May complements her impressive vocals with her skills as a classically trained pianist. She’s led several groups over the past years, crafting well-received originals and adding lyrics to be bop staples like ‘Having Fun.’ Singers Jonas Seetoh and Jade Lee will guest.
// May 1, 8pm, RMB80-680. Shanghai Centre Theatre.

Lawrence Ku

The guitarist-composer shows off a new series of works with his Trio mates E.J. Parker and Chris Trzcinski complemented by JZ favorites Alec Haavik, Toby Mak and 夏佳. Shunza and Coco Zhao will perform vocals on a few songs.
// May 2, 8pm, RMB80-380. Shanghai Centre Theatre.

JZ Spring schedule

JZ Spring Schedule

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