China' Make It (September Updates)

Hello all,

It's been a while since I wrote. I'm trying to engage with everyone at least a few times a year, but because of some incredibly busy scheduling, I've been unable to find the time to put in a few good hours each month. After a grueling past few weeks, I'm finally able to sit down and update you on all insanity of the past few months (and there is a lot).

For starters, musically, this has been an incredibly challenging month for me. Over the past few weeks, I've been playing on a Chinese TV show called King of Masks. One of the fantastic aspects of China's music scene is that session musicians are in many ways, still growing their industry. That means that a lot of Jazz musicians in China with classical training have the opportunity to partake in a multi-billion dollar industry. Unlike the US, where a lot of these high-paying (and high-pressure) gigs are being dominated by the union and life-long session musicians, China's lack of support infrastructure allows for people like myself, who are firmly rooted in the Jazz world, to be a part of the industry, without being fully-invested in it. It's a great way to learn the basics of session-work and to get involved in a way that allows me to be financially-solvent, and also to be able to do my own music when I'm not on the road. I'm really grateful for all of these opportunities and especially, to be working at the top levels of the pop industry. It's an avenue I hope to keep open for a long time.

Miles Li, Paul Thorne and myself on the set of KoM

What that does mean, though, is that while I'm on the road, I don't have much of a chance to keep my creative and improvised music-game up to snuff. I'm usually sitting around in the studio, where I can practice with my mute in but not with other musicians. I can definitely feel how after weeks of being in the studio, and aiming for precision, that my creative reach has suffered. It's just a matter of needing to realign my ideology and thinking process every time I return to the "Jazz" world.

Keeping my feet in both worlds is an important part of what I'm doing now: not losing the ability to think creatively and in the Jazz tradition, while at the same time maintaining the kind of rigid performance requirements that playing a pop horns sections demands.

In the "Jazz world" I've had an incredibly fulfilling past few months: in August I returned to the states for a little less than two weeks. While there, I had the chance to head to New York for a few days to catch up with old friends, and catch some music, as well. Speaking of which, throughout the summer I had the chance to play with some incredible musicians including Christian Li, a fantastic pianist who's also a instructor a Berklee, as well as Kevin Sun, who returned to China, this summer for a longer hiatus. Having the two of them of on the scene heightened everyone's musical prowess. I played an incredible show with Kevin at a seriously under-attended Sunday night at DDC in July: the goal for the evening was to "scare half the audience out by the end of the first set," at which we were woefully unsuccessful, but still managed to get some great music out of it. Here's a video of Kevin's original tune, "User Hostile", which featured Da Huai on bass as well as Anthony Vanacore on drums.

In addition, it's been an incredibly fulfilling year for writing-- I played a show in North Carolina, at the Beyu Caffe with a few of my favorite musicians, including a mentor and personal hero of mine, Mr. Al Strong, on trumpet. It was a sold out concert, and both of sets were well-attended. I was incredibly happy with the band, featuring Russell Favret on guitar, Kenny Phelps-Mckeown on bass, Michael Ode on drums and Al Strong on trumpet.

So all in all, an incredibly musical and inspiring summer. I'm grateful to everyone who I learned from and shared with, over these past few months and look forward to continuing to make beautiful music and growing in the months to come!


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