When thinking about who to choose for our first Featured Artist, of course we thought about Alec. For a minute I thought we should search a bit more, and not choose most logical option for me…the strange ways the mind (mine) works. After their last gig at JZ, on Thursday May 22nd, there are no more doubts: Alec must be our first featured artist. I should add here that, to be honest, we don’t know yet exactly what it means to be one of our featured artists, but we do know they are people making music to which we want to give all our stars, hearts, and lightning-flashing-neon-pointing arrows, so everybody will appreciate their music with us.
Thursday nights are now the nights of Alec Haavik Friction Five at JZ, and that Thursday night was a special night for them because they were saying goodbye to Theo Croker, the talented trumpet player who is returning to New York. I made it in time for the second set, one only with Alec’s originals songs. They opened with “Eye Opener”, to align everyone’s mood and get us all on their vibration—an energized cheerful one, and certainly all eyes and ears were opened at by the end of the song.
Theo’s playing was a beautiful call for avid ears wanting to listen to the virtue of raw humanity. He has the ability to play with honesty and to play straight, without any kind of costume, just as he is—not nicer, not less cool, not expecting anything from himself but what he is, take it or leave it. And if you take it, you may fall for it (or for him). It makes his sound so simple to recognize once you already know him, and that’s why once you’ve listened to him you’ve got to respect him.
Chris Trzcinski’s drums and Tinho Pereira’s bass are more than a solid support for the energy flowing between the piano, trumpet, and sax players. Chris is a respectful drummer, with a very open mind to chat with the other guys on the stage, and a clear heart adding, surprisingly maybe for a drummer, innocence to the emotional mix.
Tinho is the essence of coolness on the bass—and off the bass too—you’ve just got to enjoy him. The Brazilian carries with him the beach—talk about nice characters!—and that’s how he plays the bass. His sound is there whenever he wants it, and he manages impeccably the alchemy of the atmosphere, with total absence of pressure, so you can feel only comfortable with him. His six-string style is already a classic on Shanghai’s stages.
Mark Bai, the guest piano player, acquitted himself admirably. His moment came to find him with a blank mind at the time for a solo, it was one of those moments that when it’s happening to you one second feels like one hour, he got confused not only because he was out of music but also because the band didn’t react as he may be expected: covering him, instead they gave him support and time, all the time he wanted and needed to create his own solo. It’s not every night you get to listen to a musician confronting the fear to silence, and the exchange of experiences and strengths coming along together to find the way out of the darkness in such perfect way. Mark found a solo, not a “movie end” one, but one to bring him back the air and to go on with the tune. And may be not only a solo was found there but something else too. Live music is great to listen to and also great to observe. It took a few minutes after the intense moment for Mark to fully come back to the stage, the beginning of the next song was shadowed by the intensity of the previous 10 minutes, or hours, but once he came back he had his mind, heart, and hands back on the piano and the sound was definitely cheerful.
And last but never ever least Alec. Alec is a plastic performer, plastic enough to move from one dimension to the next with full control of the situation, and his love for music and sound is so attractive you just want to be right there. Alec is a theatrical player: he plays with all the elements that cross his path on every tune, and his body is an essential tool for mixing the colors and emotions coming from his horn, from the people listening, from the couples flirting, from the pals laughing and drinking, from the bartenders calling, from the cars passing by and from the friends playing with him on the stage.
Maybe no one there enjoys the music more than Alec. If you have forgotten how to be surprised by the world around, Alec will remind you. His complex and at the same time easy to appreciate original tunes are a fresh and encouraging breeze blowing around Shanghai streets. His way of playing mixes the energies around, his music always discovers new ways to tell the story, and he has an enchanting way of listening with open, positive ear—all characteristics of a great artist and interesting creator.
Alec Haavik and The Friction Five are a must of the Shanghai music scene. They are living proof that when something is good, people will stop by to listen. Even if you have a lot to talk about with your friends that night, if Alec is on the stage you will stop to listen, because if your sensor for life is working well, you will notice that right there, in front of you, is something to feed your soul. That’s art!