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THE BEAT: Jazz Hands

**My favorite acts' favorite acts to catch** Last week I had the traumatic experience of hearing what I thought was a great blues song in Tesco, writing down a few lyrics on my hand and Googling it only to find out it was John Mayer. Resigned to the fact that I don't know what good music is anymore, I went to the experts, asking my favorite jazz performers who they liked seeing here in town. I always knew J.Q. Whitcomb was good, but when I heard one of the guys who produced Kylie Minogue's Shanghai set say he "hadn't seen someone this tight in a long, long time," I respected Whitcomb even more. So who does this humble trumpeter catch on his nights off? "The JZ All Star Big Band," Whitcomb says. "It's one of the most exciting, mind-blowing bands to see live, especially if you sit in the main room downstairs right in front of them. It's intense, very much an experience rather than just a show." Speaking of intense, at first glimpse Scott Dodd might be an intimidating one--sporting a large tattoo on his right forearm while using the other to hold his 6'5" tall upright bass--but you'll be hard pressed to find a nicer (or more talented) musician. Where can you find him off stage? "At the moment Coco is the one to see," Dodd says. "He has managed to combine Chinese music with elements of jazz. He also plays consistently with the same band so this enables him to develop his sound and style. He's a force!" And what Shanghai jazz piece would be complete without talking to the force himself, Coco Zhao. Recently back from his U.S. tour, he still finds time to catch a show by his fellow JZ brethren, "I'd say Alec Haavik's band," says Zhao, "because his music is full of surprises and crazy ideas. He also has a special sound concept which you can recognize right away--that's got to be Alec!" Now here's where I'm sure to fight with my editor--I don't want to promo the dates of where these guys are playing. They're Shanghai's hidden gems. Only those who make an effort to find them should be rewarded. You've heard three of the best guys in town tell you who to see, making that a grand total of five acts to hunt down at the JZ Club, Cotton Club and the newly opened House of Jazz & Blues. And, if you're lucky enough, you might just get an invite to Coco's annual birthday bash. Tell me how it is--I'm no longer invited after what happened last year. Aric S. Queen

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