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Min Xiao-Fen’s Blue Pipa Trio “From Harlem to Shanghai and Back”

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Syosset Public Library

225 South Oyster Bay Road

Syosset, NY 11791

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“In her trio, Blue Pipa, with guitar and double bass, the lutelike pipa becomes a super-banjo.” - The New York Times

About this Event

Min Xiao-Fen, pipa and voice; Steve Salerno, guitar; Dean Johnson, bass

Collected from the many regions of China, Ms. Min's compositions are inspired by Chinese folk, regional operas and Taoist music. The pipa master/vocalist/composer from Nanjing and her trio perform her thrilling new project FROM HARLEM TO SHANGHAI AND BACK, reinterprets the work of legendary jazz trumpeter Buck Clayton, Chinese composer Li Jinhui, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. The result is a bold cutting-edge Chinese fusion that transcends time and borders. Jazz trumpeter and composer Buck Clayton was a leading member of Count Basie’s Old Testament orchestra. He brought Kansas City Swing to Shanghai in the mid-1930s and worked closely with the father of Chinese popular music Li Jinhui, who contributed hundreds of songs to the Chinese musical canon. Clayton is credited for helping close the gap between American jazz and traditional Chinese music. His effect on Li’s music helped ushered in a brief era of “Chinese jazz” and helped change musical history.

 Biographies:

Few artists have done more to both honor and reinvent the 2000-year history of the pipa than renowned soloist, vocalist and composer Min Xiao-Fen. Classically trained in her native China, Min was an in-demand interpreter of traditional music before relocating to the United States and forging a new path for her instrument alongside many of the leading lights in modern jazz, free improvisation, experimental and contemporary classical music. The Village Voice has lauded her as an artist who “has taken her ancient Chinese string instrument into the future,” while the New York Times has raved that her singular work “has traversed a sweeping musical odyssey.”

 Ms. Min’s expressive approach to the four-stringed lute has led to collaborations with such inventive luminaries as Wadada Leo Smith, Derek Bailey, Randy Weston, John Zorn, Christian Marclay and Björk. Her Blue Pipa Trio commingles legendary trumpeter Buck Clayton’s Kansas City swing with the music of Li Jinhui, the “Father of Chinese popular music,” in a project titled “From Harlem to Shanghai and Back.” Min’s 2012 album Dim Sum spotlighted the stunning scope of her original compositions, while her latest release, Mao, Monk and Me, is a deeply personal exploration of the music of Thelonious Monk combined with Chinese folk tunes and children’s songs remembered from her childhood in the ancient capital of Nanjing.

 In May 2016, Min was the principal soloist with Washington D.C.’s PostClassical Ensemble for the world premiere of Daniel Schnyder’s “Concerto for Pipa & Orchestra,” written expressly for Min by the Swiss-American composer. Still a revered performer of traditional Chinese repertoire, she has been a featured soloist with a number of leading symphony orchestras. In February 2018, Min premiered her original score, a duo with acclaimed guitarist Rez Abbasi, for the long-lost 1934 Chinese silent film The Goddess. In August, she premiered Alan Chan’s “Moon Walk” for pipa and Jazz Orchestra. That major event follows a fruitful 2017, when Min served as artist-in-residence with the Sound of Dragon Society at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and was a guiding artists for the Creative Music Studio in New York, performing with founder Karl Berger and his CMS Improvisers Orchestra in the fall. www.minxiaofenbluepipa.org

 STEVE SALERNO (guitar) is an active performer of Jazz and Classical music.  He has performed throughout Europe, China, Malaysia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Cuba, Russia, Haiti and the United States.  He is a member of the Ray Anderson Organic Quartet (with Gary Versace and Tommy Campbell), Paul Smoker 4-Tet (with Drew Gress and Phil Haynes), Mala Waldron Quartet (with Miriam Sullivan and Michael T.A. Thompson), Blue Pipa Trio (with Min Xiao-Fen & Dean Johnson) and leads a variety of groups, including his Jazz quartet, Exiles.  

He has performed with many of today’s top musicians including Jaco Pastorius, John Abercrombie, Regina Carter, Mark Dresser and Peter Erskine.  Among his latest recordings are Ray Anderson’s Being The Point, Mala Waldron’s Always There, Paul Smoker’s Cool Lives, and Min Xiao-Fen’s Blue Pipa. He was music director for the PBS special Shoreline Sonata, which first aired in May, 2009.

 He is the author of Planet Wave’s Chord Master (an 8,000 chord voicing dictionary), which was recently voted the number one music application for Apple’s iPhone, and is on the musician’s advisory board for D’Addario Strings.

 Born in Seattle, Washington, Dean Johnson studied Bass Violin with a number of bassists, including the renowned Gary Peacock. Dean also studied piano and composition at the Cornish Institute, in Seattle, with James Knapp.  From 1974 to 1976 Dean attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston studying with bassists Rich Appleman, John Neves, and studying theory, composition, and arranging with John LaPorta and Herb Pomeroy.

Since arriving in New York, in 1980, Dean has been busy freelancing with a wide variety of artists in the Northeast, and has had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and numerous tours of Europe, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, China, South Korea, and Israel. Some of the eclectic array of artists Dean has been and continues to be involved with include Bob Brookmeyer, Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Art Lande, Jane Ira Bloom, Ray Anderson, Min Xiao-Fen’s Blue Pipa Trio, Mark Sherman, Dave Douglas, Lee Konitz, Nguyen Le, Steve Kuhn, Wynton Marsalis, The New York Voices, Jackie and Roy, Carol Sloane, Roseanna Vitro, Paul Jost, Kendra Shank and many others.  Dean has also appeared on over 80 recordings with a variety of artists.

 Gerry Mulligan however is Dean's most prominent association. Dean spent 10 years with Mr. Mulligan until his passing in 1996 in a variety of musical situations including the Quartet, Nonet, Big Band, and Orchestra. Dean performed in concerts and jazz festivals all over the world and with a number of well known pianists that were in that group including, Harold Danko, Bill Mays, and Bill Charlap. Dean has also taught privately for years and has conducted clinics at the Berklee College of Music, New Mexico State University, University of Northern Colorado, Ithaca College, and at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music.

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Syosset Public Library

225 South Oyster Bay Road

Syosset, NY 11791

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