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New York jazz club Blue Note opens in Beijing
Last Updated: 2016-08-24 07:20 | China Daily
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Saxophonist Kenny Garrett performs with his quintet at the opening of Blue Note Beijing, the first branch of the New York jazz club in China. Photo by Feng Yongbin/China Daily

Grammy-winning saxophonist Kenny Garrett came to Beijing for the first time in 2005 to write music after being drawn to the city by a book on erhu, the traditional Chinese instrument, which he had bought in Ireland earlier.

He lived in a traditional courtyard house in a hutong (alley) for three weeks and walked for hours every day to explore the city where he found there was no jazz.

"But I am pretty sure if I had played jazz then for my neighbors in the hutong they would have understood because the emotions, especially the struggle, expressed in the music is universal," says Garrett, recounting his first trip to Beijing.

The experience inspired him to produce a CD called Beyond the Wall, which earned him a Grammy nomination in 2006.

During the past 10 years, Garrett has returned to China often to perform at music festivals and teach at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

But he didn't expect that jazz - a genre that originated in African-American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th century - to take root and develop in China quite so quickly.

This summer, he returned to the capital and was excited to perform with his quintet at the opening of Blue Note Beijing, the first Chinese branch of the Blue Note Jazz Club, the famous New York establishment, on Thursday.

"We travel around the world and present music to people. So, for me, opening up for Beijing is special. I like Beijing and I want to give back.

"I am excited to be the first one here to introduce jazz, my version of jazz, to Beijing audiences," he says.

The Blue Note was founded in 1981 by Danny Bensusan in New York's Greenwich Village.

Many legendary jazz musicians, including Ray Charles, Dave Brubeck and Herbie Hancock, have performed on the Blue Note stage.

Bensusan is credited with revitalizing jazz in New York.

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