Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Matthew Shipp interview/ Elliott Sharp Interview

As noted last week, I'll be posting interviews from my China rock piece (see here). Below are email responses from jazz pianist Matthew Shipp and guitarist/ composer Elliott Sharp. Both gentlemen have been to the country in the past year, and had this to say about their time.

Matthew Shipp

"I was surprised to get an offer from China-I assumed there was not much of a market for what I do but was surprised to find out there where people who knew about me. I started out in Shanghai and it felt like New York on speed- It was pure energy and had the rhythm of a hyper urban jungle.everything seemed to run by money.This was my first time in China. Bejing seemed a little more relaxed than Shanghai and seemed a real interesting mix between the old city and a college town.

"I don’t know if my music had made it over there-there where people who came up with cds for me to sign but I have no idea where they got it from-I have no idea what is going on in black market in China-I saw nothing of jazz inprov scene in China –I did see some really good straightahead players at a jam session-I was in China for a week-I'm pretty focused about being me when I play and the local does not influence me.

"I did get a sense that people there look up to New York and New York musicians-there are musicians every where on the planet that mimic and there are some everywhere that have moved beyond that. I have no ideaa where things will move as far as jazz growing in China. The cuisine was great-I never knew there was such a variety of Chinese food and different types of cuisines in different areas."


"I know that Michael Pettis brought some of my music back for Chinese musicians to hear and a few I met there seemed pretty knowledgeable about my work and others on the NY scene. I didn't see my CD's on the black market as people most likely just traded CDR's and mp3's - it's a pretty small niche there.

"There was a definite vibe about my concerts re: "NYC music" - there's always mimicry (a lot in Japan when I was going there often in the 80's and 90's) but not so much of what I do as it's pretty hard to fake. Jeffray (especially in his band "White" with Shen-Jin [Shenggy]) and the circle of musicians around Yan Jun are pretty original sounding which is what makes their work exciting. Those that tour internationally get to hear a lot more and meet more musicians as well as "test" their work on audiences outside the somewhat-insular Beijing scene. it's really quite underground there still - reminds of NYC in the early 80's - audience mostly of other musicians and artists and interested foreigners - the feedback keeps the scene bubbling.

"Despite being "shut off", as I mentioned, people were quite knowledgeable about art & music movements. The sons & daughters of the preofessional classes all had pretty open access to web info so I don't feel they were out of the flow at all (though it's different when it's ONLY via the web).

"There were many great players there (guzheng player Wu Fei and gu zin player Wu Na especially come to mind - fantastic technique in the classical sense (along with knowledge of Chinese classical music) but also open ears and vibrant sense of improvising sonically. Hard to say what will happen as governments are unpredictable. One hopes the old guard will just die out and let things grow and expand. The genie's out of the bottle in China and there's no putting it back and this will certainly extend to all cultural activities. China wants to be part of the world marketplace (is already, needless to say!) but they need to allow the musicians to be their ambassadors and welcome the cross-pollination that foreign musicians coming to China will bring. The Chinese have almost always made use of the strengths of foreign ways and brought them into their own way of operating."