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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Li Tie Qiao - Wind Of Lunacy

I once had the chance to visit the huge 798 Art Zone in Beijing, where a thriving community of modern plastic art exhibits sculptures, paintings and installations in a former weapons factory, an evolution that seems to give some hope to humanity. It also seems like the visual arts precede music, because now experimental jazz and music also start to get attention.

One of the performers is Li Tieqiao, whose solo sax album is his latest brain child. Without formal music education, Li switched his wood flute to trombone to sax, which is now his main instrument. He was presented to me as the Chinese Evan Parker, which I can understand, but not quite. Li seems to have by-passed a few decades of jazz history, taking up the most recent of free jazz in Norway, some indie rock music, and electronics, and turned them into his own personal soundscapes.

And even if this album is a solo sax record, officially, it is more electronics that you hear than the instrument's original sounds. Despite that, he manages to create sufficient tension to keep the attention going, especially on the first two tracks, on which there are still some rhythmic and even harmonic explorations, added to that some interesting shades and coloring of tones, which range from animal-like cries to industrial sounds. The third piece is pretty flat. The fourth gives the kind of cosmic and meditative soundscape which has been beaten to death by many before. The last track has the sax more prominent on the foreground.

Even if this will not be my favorite album of the year, I sincerely hope that Li and the new crowd of Chinese musicians will discover and share their experiences. As Li says in an interview about free jazz : "It was the most natural, liberating sound ... When you perform like this, your mind abandons everything. No two notes are the same ? I feel like we are conversing with each other through our instruments, discussing crucial questions".

From weapons to art, from language barriers to "conversing through instruments", there is hope indeed.

For those of you living in Belgium, or close by, the concert hall Vooruit (Gent) organises a four-day concert program this week dedicated to modern Chinese music, at which Li Tie Qiao performs . 

© stef