Shanghai Jazz: A Culture Mix

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USC Thornton School of Music professor Ron McCurdy celebrates the 1935 collaboration of celebrated Chinese musician Li Jinhui and jazz musician Buck Clayton with a unique blend of American jazz and Chinese traditional music.

In 1935, Los Angeles–based musician Buck Clayton formed a jazz band called Harlem Gentlemen to perform in Shanghai. Li Jinhui, who is considered the father of Chinese popular music, had been performing in the “Paris of the East” for years when Clayton and his colleagues arrived. Clayton and Li eventually worked together to form a new and unique blend of American jazz and Chinese traditional music.

This boundary-breaking performance will celebrate Li Jinhui and Buck Clayton’s collaboration. USC Thornton professor Ron McCurdy and alum Gary Shields have reimagined and orchestrated three suites of Li Jinhui’s folk songs. Blending three cultures—Western art music (classical), American jazz, and traditional Chinese music—the concert will feature the Ron McCurdy Quintet, Feng Bian on piano, and Min Xiao Fen on pipa, a traditional Chinese string instrument. The performance will also include historical video footage reflecting the artists, iconic buildings, and culture of Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts & Humanities Initiative.

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