Antonio Hart tours China
Antonio Hart, alto saxophonist and professor of Jazz Studies at Queens College City University of New York, spent part of his summer vacation touring China. According to Jason Lee, the JJA’s contact in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, who booked Hart’s gigs and has previously brought American jazz musicians there, “Antonio Hart’s tour in China so far been very successful, playing to packed full house venue in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. All at the best jazz venues in China and in Beijing performing with some of the top Chinese jazz musicians.
“In Beijing the US Embassy also came over to his concert, same will be in Guangzhou on Wednesday where the Consul General will be coming with his colleagues in the US Consulate in Guangzhou. He performed in Hong Kong on the 21st and heads back to US on the 23rd July. There is future tour of him coming back before the end of the year in this part of the world.”
North Americans rarely play jazz on tour of China, although Madison Jazz (Madison, Wisconsin) made a three-week trip ending in late June: blog on their visit can be read here. Hart, age 42, was educated in classical music before switching to jazz during his college years; he debuted as a jazz soloist on Roy Hargrove’s 1989 album Diamond In The Rough, began recording under his own name two years later, and at Queens College has been associated with Jimmy Heath (the JJA’s Lifetime Achievement in Jazz award winner in 2011).
“I find the Chinese are very interested in jazz,” Hart advised in an e-mail, “but they have not had exposure to much of the tradition. To my understanding there are a lot of European musicians that come [to perform in China], and that has been the reference. What I attempted to do in my performances was to give some example of this American art form. I played my original, as well as compositions from Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, etc. I played in many styles: traditional blues, swing, bop, funk and some adventurous music, also.
“The audiences were great in every venue I performed, and they seemed to enjoy the ride we took them on. I think the thing that made it successful was the fact that they could clap, tap their feet and feel the groove. The Gospel influence is strong in the tradition, and in my approach.”
According to Lee, “Around 900 people in heard cities Antonio perform. His music not played on radio or music sold off the stage or in stores. But in each city, there is a certain crowd which has heard of his name or music before. Quite a lot of students leaning saxophone coming over to his shows.”
Wrote Hart: “I think it would be great to educate the Chinese audiences, and the musicians that are trying to play this music. I pray they will be informed with the true history, so they will understand the development of the music today. It was such a pleasure to play with some of the Chinese musicians, and feel their desire to communicate with me. I do believe that with more time and exposure the music will reach a wider audience in China.” China has 1.3 billion residents, making it the largest country by population in the world, with 24 cities reporting more than a million residents in 2010 data.
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