Donald Jackson Trio featuring Richard Jackson at the WFC

Last week I made the trip out to the Park Hyatt in Pudong to drown the sorrow of the Daft Punk hoax, which is not to say that I bought a ticket but that I, like Bill Clinton, feel your pain. I went to check out a band that I had been hearing a lot about and my sorrows were well drowned. Shanghai’s jazz fans will already know about bassist/bandleader Donald Jackson and drummer Cory Radford, who have held contract gigs at at venues including CJW and the Portman Ritz-Carlton. Exuberant and technically accomplished, they are always a pleasure to hear. The reason jazz fans and musicians are talking about this band, though, is vocalist Richard Jackson, who possesses soul, a strong voice, and musical range and understanding. He’s the kind of singer about whom instrumental musician say “He’s not just a singer, he’s a musician.” He is one a handful of singers in Shanghai who can scat convincingly and even did a nice “trombone” solo on “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear from Me.” Less developed scat singers often have crutch licks that they use over and over, but Richard Jackson is full of ideas. In addition to swinging and energetic jazz, the band plays funk and rock, all with very apparent relish, brilliantly defying the contract-gig plague* of workmanlike performances. Donald tells me the band’s book also includes Prince and Rick James, and has fifty tunes already.

They seem to get along swimmingly and, most importantly, have a great time on stage. Difficulties of the contract gig for the customer (ones like me, anyway) still exist, namely high prices (55 RMB for a Qingdao) and somewhat cold ambiance, though I was pleased to find the staff much friendlier than at similar establishments. The sound is pretty bad as the bar is on the 92nd floor and has glass walls. Nevertheless, if you have money or a good drink-nursing game it doesn’t have to be such an expensive night, and the music is worth it. If I was basically myself except rich and living in Pudong, I could easily see it becoming a regular hang.

If you need help finding the World Financial Center, aka the World’s Biggest Bottle Opener, check the map in the “live dates” listing for this band.

* I’m not sure how familiar non-musicians are with this term. If you sign onto a contract gig in Shanghai that usually means playing with the same band six nights a week for at least three months, sometimes much longer. Though generally well remunerated (Chinese bands often make much less however), there are a number of obvious pitfalls in this arrangement, personal issues between band-members and the music becoming predictable chief among them. Also, usually the singer chooses the music, so you often have musicians playing stuff they don’t dig that much. Contract gigs in town include Brown Sugar, CJW, almost all hotel gigs, Cabaret, and House of Blues & Jazz.

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