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January 8, 2010

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New vibe for E-Groove jazz band

SHANGHAI-BASED E-Groove jazz band is one of the best-known live groups who combine modern jazz, electronic music, traditional Chinese elements, rearranged 1930s movie songs and dashes of other elements. Nie Xin reports.

Shanghai jazz band E-Groove ended the year with a bang in concerts at the Grand Hyatt Concert Hall and Shanghai Concert Hall, featuring a style that includes modern jazz, electronic music, golden movie songs and Chinese elements.

E-Groove was founded in 2005 by five young musicians: piano and keyboard Zhang Bo (aka Jumbo), saxophone Tang Ying (Max), bass Zhu Donghuan (Tico), drummer Pan Jianglei (Bill) and trumpeter Li Xiaochuan who left to study in the United States in 2007.

E-Groove presents so-called "e-style music," which Zhang on keyboard describes in this way: "E-Groove represents our spirits. 'E' stands for electric/electronic and everyone; 'Groove' stands for rhythm and team."

After four years of efforts, the group has become a major element in Shanghai's live jazz scene.

The band explores new elements in their music, breaking traditions, drawing inspiration from other musical genres, and thus developing a unique style of their own.

"Jazz can be Chinese ... Electronic music and traditional Chinese musical elements are combined into our own jazz style," says Zhang.

Some old songs are rearranged and presented in E-Groove style, such as their latest song, "Songs for the Seasons," the theme of the old Shanghai movie "Angels on the Road" (1937).

E-Groove provides visual as well as musical enjoyment in its shows.

The group debuted to cheers at the Grand Hyatt Concert Hall in 2006 and followed that success with "Jazz City" concert tours around the country.

Tickets were sold a week in advance and standing-room tickets were sold out on the day of the performance.

The group has staged more than 70 shows at Shanghai's Grand Hyatt Concert Hall in Pudong, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Shanghai Art Theater, Shanghai Center Theater, Hangzhou Grand Theater and Ningbo Grand Theater.

In March 2007, E-Groove performed live with Taiwanese pop singer Julian Chen, a member of the former popular boy band The Little Tigers, in a jazz concert titled "Love of the Old Days."

The performance made a deep and positive impression on veteran Chen, experts from entertainment industry and the media, which cited exceptional musical and performing skills.

E-Groove's schedule is very flexible and it goes with the flow.

"We founded this band to realize our music dream, but each member has his own career. We don't have a fixed performance schedule," explains Zhang.

The band is now busy with a music project for the Shanghai Light Music Group which will take part in the performing project for World Expo 2010 in Shanghai and will collaborate with Disneyland for a musical show.

For more information, visit The Band Members Keyboard: Zhang Bo (Jumbo)

Zhang started to play the piano when he was four years old. He attended the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and is now teaching piano at the conservatory.

As a conservatory student, he studied pop music, Broadway musicals, jazz, R&B and electronic music. Apart from playing standard jazz, he also plays Latin and funk.

Zhang has organized several bands in the conservatory with various styles, including jazz, pop, rock and other fused genres. He has also played in some rock bands and in 2006 he was at piano and keyboard in the New Year's Concert of the Shanghai Big Band.

Bass: Zhu Donghuan (Tico)

Zhu, with nearly 10 years of music experience, is one of the best-known jazz musicians in the city.

He started learning the accordion at the age of six and classical guitar when he was 16.

In 1966 he started learning the bass and rehearsing and performing with bands, absorbing jazz from many sources.

He studied the double bass with famous Norwegian player Terje Vernas and the well-known American jazz bass player Henry Frankly.

Zhu has recorded five albums with famous jazz musicians.

In 1999, he went to Singapore to study. He took up swing, Latin, funk and other music.

Drummer: Pan Jianglei (Bill)

Graduating from Department of Music in Shanghai Normal University, Pan has been constantly performing jazz in Shanghai for more than 15 years and has become one of the best-known jazz drummers in China.

He founded his own jazz band, Dream Band, performing classical jazz, in 1995.

Pan recorded his first jazz album "H.R.P." in 1997 and it soon became a hit. His second album "Chinese Sky" was released in 2001 and the next year Pan recorded the album "Red Jazz."

In 2005 he attended arts and cultural festivals in Singapore and Hong Kong and was appointed counselor of the Shanghai Percussion Association.

Saxophone: Tang Ying (Max)

Tang started playing the saxophone when he was 14 and has cooperated with well-known musicians from both China and abroad. He has engaged in serious study of all kinds of saxophones and electronic wind instruments, developing color and nuance.

In 1999, Tang became the chief saxophonist of the Army Band of the Shanghai Garrison Command of PLA. He held a solo concert in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, in 2002, and played saxophone in the "Blue Night Album" a year later. What the critic says about E-Groove I have known the members of E-Groove for more than 10 years. I was a classmate of Zhang Bo (keyboard) in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

E-Groove can be one of the best jazz music groups in Shanghai and China as a whole. Each member is talented. They are trying their best to contribute to the group as well as to their own careers.

It's not easy to make jazz in China. What they have to do is to hold on and gain more experience by cooperating with top jazz musicians from around the world. To become the top jazz group, they need more original ideas.

I have cooperated with them many times, and they will always be my first choice when I give jazz shows.


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