Monday, April 8, 2013

Dreamer's Ball

I've been dreaming of going to see the jazz combo at the Peace Hotel for many, many moons.  As I mentioned last fall, I've seen jazz a time or two in my life.  Socrates may have been right; he said that for most people it would be pretentious, but that he had a feeling I genuinely appreciated it.  As for that, I don't know.  My tastes in music are eclectic, to say the least, but I actually don't listen to that much jazz, unless it's live, and for that, I blame Paul Senzee, who took me and Christa to the Majestic as impressionable young freshmen.  Ah, memories.
One way or another, I decided the Peace Hotel was on my hit list for my revisitation of Shanghai, and JoAnn and her hubby volunteered to come with me, being musicians themselves, not to mention my host-es with the most-es this week.  I was thrilled to have the company, especially since each table has a minimum order of 750 kuai.

The Peace Hotel was built by Shanghai bighead Victor Sassoon as the Sassoon House, which included a variety of offices as well as the Cathay Hotel, in 1929.  It was the most prestigious hotel in Shanghai until the communists had their say.  It is also famous for its beautiful Art Deco architecture, which you can still see.  After we found our way to the bar, I went back and took photos of the fixtures, which were dazzling.  Someday, I might have a house.  If I do, there's a very good chance I'm gonna decorate the hell out of that sucker, and put magic art deco swirls all over it, like the art deco fairy got violently ill all over it (or maybe just in one room - I may have plans for other rooms).  Either way, there's just something about that style that appeals to me, for the same reasons that I love reading fantasy...this world is just a little too mundane for my liking.

They've had jazz there nearly as long as it's been open.  According to the blurb on the menu, originally the musicians were brought in from other countries, but before long Chinese musicians caught the fever and became the staple performers...for as long as it took the "new management" to decide jazz wasn't part of their dogma and shut it down.  Years down the road the jazz bar was reopened and to this day the original performers are there every night at 7, belting out jazz standards and a few that aren't.  Apparently you can request songs at 30 kuai a pop, and this is supposed to improve the experience, but I didn't realize that until just now.  Also improving the experience would be to not go with a couple of musicians, who definitely enjoyed the ambiance and the history but found the music to be quaint, and the musicians "sweet."  I love JoAnn and Michael, and wouldn't have traded them for the best listening experience in the world, FYI.
But at the same time, you have to respect the hell out of these guys, for the passion they have to keep making music, and for what they must have gone through, being jazz musicians in the time of Maoism.
We invited Socrates to come with us.  I wasn't sure I wanted to see him while I was back, because I can't always count on him to play nice, and as he's been offered a job in Africa this seemed likely to be the last time I saw him, possibly ever.  I didn't want my last memory of him to be a negative one, and it turned out that it wasn't.  We had a nice chat and he wound me up a little with his view of marriage and I probably annoyed the hell out of him with my unwelcome honesty, but I did miss him.  (If he is reading this, yes, I threw the title of this post in here for you - I assume you can figure out why it's an apt reference.  I already used "All that Jazz" for a previous title and was at a loss - I like to think I'm witty and this is the best I could come up with).  After the Peace Hotel Michael suggested a few other live music venues, but only the first one, Oscar's, panned out, and it ended up being an early evening, which suited me fine, since unlike UB, Shanghai hasn't banned smoking in public and I've been fighting getting sick since before the vacation.

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