Go out and listen to something…

November 29, 2011

Ningbo Highlights

Filed under: music, travel, China Tour 9 — burnett @ 1:06 am


Ningbo Radio:  A one-hour live interview and performance with trombonist Tom Smith and Burnett Thompson.  A short audio clip in which Burnett explains things in Mandarin Chinese. 

above: In Concert Nov. 25,  B.T. and Wang Jian Qiao in concert; Tom Smith, Wang Yi Ni, B.T.


2 weeks at Ningbo University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 9, China — burnett @ 12:10 am


I met Yu Hui at Shenyang Normal University last year, and after his arrival as Dean of the School of Arts at Ningbo University, he suggested I come to the school and participate in his new jazz program.  Hence   two weeks of teaching, rehearsals, lectures,  and performances, including the “American Jazz Music Week” (美国爵士音乐周).  The Jazz week included 6 performances, including a student concert, a couple of presentations by the remarkable trombonist Professor Tom Smith, my own lecture on Chinese & American music histories, and concluded with a big concert hosted by your truly.  From a personal perspective, this was one of the biggest highlights of 9 tours in China, and I have Yu Hui to thank for this rewarding experience. 

My goal as expressed to Yu Hui was to present the jazz piano course in Mandarin Chinese.  He in turn set up a daily two hour class, followed by two hours of rehearsals every day. I conducted these sessions entirely in Chinese, with the generous assistance of the students who helped me with the technical vocabulary and general pronunciations. 

The highlight of the trip was my Introduction to Jazz Piano Class, which included 12 students.  We met every day for 2 hours.  A close second was the two-hour daily rehearsals with a pair of erhu players and two singers. 

Above:  Yu Hui;  jazz piano class: 张大卫,朱佳,周琳, 周舒怡, 尤鹏玮,聂小涵,温馨,罗洁,,袁金宝,温馨 周余 徐莹莹, B.T.,  not present: 李化阳; Prof. Yang, translator Xin Chen, Prof. Zhong, Tom Smith, translator Ke Jin, B.T.; Concert: Wang Lei Lei, B.T., Song Wen Yue

April 29, 2011

Shanghai Sonnets: The Concert, April 29, 2011 Two Cities Modern Art Gallery

Filed under: music, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 11:34 pm

Click here for the full Concert on Youtube 

Listen to the entire concert:
Sonnet 147, Sonnet 127,
Sonnet 154, Sonnet 8,
Sonnet 24, Sonnet 141,
Sonnet 128,Sonnet 54,
Sonnet 66,Sonnet 138

Article in Global Times: Global Times,
Interview at Smart Shanghai: Smart Shanghai                                                                                                   
Personnel:  Jin Ruo Wei, erhu; Chen Jia Jun, alto and soprano sax; EJ Parker, bass; Chris Trzcinski, drums; Burnett Thompson, Pianist.
Text by William Shakespeare.  Mandarin Chinese translation by Janet Tan.  Music composed by Burnett Thompson.



Shakespeare Sonnet Cycle in Shanghai

Filed under: Art, music, travel, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 1:45 am

Tonight:  The Song Cycle premieres at Two Cities Gallery in Shanghai. Music composed by Burnett Thompson.  Translation:  Janet Tan  

Today’s  Global Times:  Burnett Thompson, a noted jazz pianist and composer from Washington D.C., is just one of many who have professed a lifelong passion of the Bard’s professions of love. However, his own appreciation rings with a unique note all of its own. Thompson has spent 15 years developing a song cycle inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets…more  The Sonnet Cycle was born out of a long sequence of bardophilia, documented at www.SilentShakespeare.com  The song cycle includes a Salsa, a couple of Rock n Roll tunes, Viennese song form, jazz, and two songs written in traditional Chinese style, featuring erhu solo. 

Front page of Smart Shanghai:  Tonight at Two Cities, he’s doing the Sonnets, translated into Mandarin and performed with Coco Zhao assuming vocal duties. This is really great stuff…more

Audio Previews:  Sonnet 66 at Central China Univ. in Wuhan

Sonnet 127  at Youku and at Youtube  Video:  Lena Seikaly, Marshall Keys, Eric Wheeler

The performance here in Shanghai features the remarkable vocalist Coco Zhao, saxophonist Wilson Chen, erhu soloist Jin Ruo Wei, bassist EJ Parker, Drummer Chris Trzcinski and the blogger at the piano.

April 26, 2011

Shanghai: Food

Filed under: Art, music, travel, food, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 8:15 pm


Last night it was a new, and now my favorite, restaurant called Lucky Zen & Veg, a Bhuddist restaurant on Ma Dang Lu.  I was the guest of my very good friends Zhang Cong Mei and Ai Ling, and we had a feast.  Everything from the orange blossom tea to the soup, mushroom and cashews, limas and cashews, hot pepper beans and filo tofu, shredded filo tofu with ginger, etc, etc.  Very delicate, light, and wonderful flavors.  

Later stopped by JZ to hear my current favorite talent, Joey Lu.  Joey is an exciting pianist, a confident and stylish singer.  I can’t say I’ve seen anyone recently with her presence, bandleading ability, vocal talents, and immaculate command of the piano.  Of course, she had the  ’super trio’ behind her of Sean Higgins, Mike Hicks and the Chris Trzcinski. 

There is always something to see in the street here, and the moment can be so intimate, that I hesitate to take a photo.  I got past that for the “toilet on a bike” scene.  Convenience is everything in China, so why not a loo on the bicycle?  Save those time-consuming roadside stops.

My hotel, the Yesinn, is under renovation.  So I am in a construction site.  I’ve stayed here for 5 years, and don’t have the motivation to leave.  There are a handful of people still staying there, and we eye each other nervously in the elevator, wondering  what kind of person would remain in such a dreadful environment.  But aside from the wet concrete on the hallway floor, the power tools on the steps and the jack-hammer at 7:30 a.m. sharp, what’s to complain about?

photos:  BT & Zhang CongMei, Mike Hicks, Joey Lu, Chris Trzcinski, Sean Higgins’ elbow, bike vendor, bike loo


April 24, 2011

Shanghai: Clean Air

Filed under: Education, music, music education, travel, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 8:41 pm

Just kidding.  But compared to Wuhan, the air is at least breatheable.  Kicking off the usual sequence of dinners, coffees, hanging out, rehearsals, etc.  You never know whom you will meet in this city, like NY but more international…if that is possible.  Managed to catch Coco Zhao at JZ Club, led the Intro to Jazz Piano at the JZ School.  The photos:  Intro to Jazz Piano, a bunch of Brits at dinner, Coco & Huang Jianyi at JZ, and the ARt Deco Paramount Theater in Shanghai, Byron Wu & friends 

April 22, 2011

Wrapping it up in Wuhan

Filed under: music, music education, restaurants, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 5:59 pm

The last event of the Wuhan trip was a party at the Renaissance Hotel celebrating their anniversary.  As a guest of the U.S. Consulate, I was treated to some fabulous food and a good bit of entertainment.  Earlier in the day, a couple hours at the university included sharing some of the jazz teaching method with a teacher, Ming Yue,  who understood things very quickly. 

April 20, 2011

Wuhan: 华中师范大学的音乐会

Filed under: music, music education, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 9:34 pm

I arrived the other day in Wuhan with no particular agenda, but that changed in a New York minute when a concert was planned at Central China Normal University Music School.  I was joined by my old colleague Wang Meng 老师, and a wonderful opera student, Tang Jiu Qi,  who sang Sonnet 66 from the Sonnet Song Cycle. (listen to this remarkable performance here ) The faculty, including Prof. Tian Xiaobao, Prof. Zang, Prof.  Zhang and  others, hosted the most gracious dinner afterwards.  The concert program included a couple of quickly assembled arrangements of a tango and bossa nova for erhu and piano, Er Quan Ying Yue 二泉映月, and new approaches to music of Liu Tianhua and the inevitable Sai Ma 赛马。  

January 31, 2011

President Obama

Filed under: music, music education — burnett @ 8:12 am

      I was starting to feel left out of the current administration, until I was suddenly included in a small dinner party, and subsequently a casual gathering of friends and colleagues which happened to include the President of the Unitied States.  They say that in New York, you have to be there and then maybe something good will happen.  I guess the same is true here in D.C.  You never know when you will be holding the door for Liz Taylor or playing the piano for Mandy Patinkin and Herbie Hancock, or…standing next to the President.  Finally, all of these things have actually happened.

Let me back up a bit.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, I was suddently talking   at great length with him on the subject of public school music education.  To his pleasure, I brought up the matter of the excellent music program in Texas public schools.  And of course there is the issue that half of the military jazz musicians that play in the White House are North Texas Univ. grads.  The chat took place on Jan. 26, 2001, at the home of David Schwartz, the architect for the Texas Rangers baseball stadium.  There were not more than 25 people at the event, which happened to be David’s 50th birthday.  On another occasion, I made a point of hiring a pair of retired military musicians to perform for President Bush.   (Both musicians arrived late for the occasion and gave new meaning to the word “retired”.)

No such conversation took place with President Obama, to my dismay.  Things happen fast in that arena, so my meaningful chat is still in the future.  The subject?  Public school music education.  My theory?  Since you are going to have ’standard of learning’ tests in public schools, please include Foreign Language, Art, and Music.  (At present, we have English, Science, Math, and History.)

December 15, 2010

Break a Leg

Filed under: music — burnett @ 3:04 pm

For many years I have held down the piano chair of the illustrious “Washingtonians” orchestra as we perform for the Olender Awards.  This year on Dec. 1, 2010, was number 25 for the Awards at the Ronald Reagan Building, but a first for me.  I have never broken a leg before, nor had I loaded in a a pair of keyboards, performed for a rehearsal, a ceremony performance, and a jazz gig, all in the space of 8 hours with a broken leg.  The show must go on, and go it did. 

The part of the show that did not go on was a response to the injury.  I write two weeks to the day after the injury occurred, and have yet to receive a report from RR Bldg, or from the host, or from the band leader.  It is a lesson in the solitary status of the injured party.  A week after the event, the host recommended through a secretary that I contact a friend of his who is a personal injury attorney.  The friend declared that I may not have a case, and made a few impractical suggestions about “the next step”.

The adventure grew more “official” as I ventured to obtain a ‘handicap parking’ pass.  To do this, get the signed form from your orthopedist (that involves a second trip) and then a trip to DMV.  An hour after arriving at DMV, I walked out with a temporary pass.  Arriving with a broken leg was exactly the same as arriving with two fully energized limbs.  Take a number and wait. 

And speaking of eternal, for those curious souls who care to know about who runs the Ronald Reagan Building…I really don’t yet know.  A security company roams certain doorways, but reports to the Federal Protecive Service.  Rather they try to, but their communications get lost.  After 6 or 7 phone calls to FPS, there is still no report on their desk, although they sincerely believe there may be one.    To be continued. 

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