Saxophonist Li Tieqiao left China for Oslo in 2005. It was a trip that would change his life and profoundly impact the direction of Beijing music.
“In Oslo, I discovered free jazz,” says Li who will be performing at Yugong Yishan on February 19. “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.”
In 2007, Li returned to Beijing to spearhead an experimental, free improvisation music scene. Instead of working with the city’s jazz heads, he found himself collaborating with folk rockers like Xiao He, electronic musicians like Dead J and indie noise artists like Jeff Zhang. The results were an entirely original sound that built on both free jazz, electronic music and the experimental fringes of indie.
“Beijing didn’t have a free improvisation scene at the time,” he explains. “I found friends, musicians I admired like Xiao He, who were excited about experimenting. The first time I played them this kind of music, they were amazed and couldn’t stop laughing ... Now, the lineup continues to evolve, bringing in new musicians to collaborate with. Every time we take to the stage, something new takes form.”
When we caught up with Li, he performed with Wu Fei, a New York-based, Chinese guzheng composer and instrumentalist, crafting soundscapes somewhere between traditional Chinese music, electronica and free jazz. Such an eclectic performance is emblematic of both the Chinese proverb Li selected for the band’s name—Feint To The East, Attack In The West—and his reasons for doing this music in Beijing.
“Part of why I am driven to do Feint To The East is that I want to show people that not only does China have this kind of music, but we have our own style of doing it. We have our own stage on which to express ourselves .. I also want the music to function as a dialogue between Chinese and foreign musicians.”
The next performance features New York-based avant-garde guitarist-composer Eyal Maoz.
**By Blake Stone-Banks**
**Photo by James Wasserman**
**Details: Feint To The East, Attack In The West, Thursday, Feb. 19, Yugong Yishan, Tel: 6404-2711, ¥50**