Global jazz venue chain Blue Note will open its overdue Beijing branch in late August, and on September 13 host two performances by legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea, according to events industry website Pollstar and the musician's own website.

The approximately 1,500 square meter club was set to open in March 2016, according to the company's own press materials, but has kept its construction on the down-low. Even this early gig, which features two shows with Corea joined by bass player Eddie Gomez and drummer Brian Blade, came not from Blue Note but from other sources. The first show listed for the site is a group led by another American pianist, the Bill Charlap Trio, which will perform August 26-28. Blue Note representatives could not be immediately reached for comment on the schedule.

"Blue Note Beijing ... will occupy a 16,000-square-foot basement space [about 1,500 square meters] in a neo-Classical building near Tiananmen Square. Built in 1903 as Beijing’s first American Embassy, it was ... more recently to the upscale French restaurant Maison Boulud. The club, now undergoing a USD 5 million renovation, will present two shows a night, Tuesday through Sunday," the New York Times reported in June 2015.

We've been pessimistic about the chances of success for such a large, expensive jazz venue in a city that has an extremely limited jazz scene, although we'd really like to be proved wrong, especially if Blue Note is going to bring acts like Corea that will also play at their well-established club in Tokyo (oh please god Pat Metheny). 

To date, the market for live jazz in Beijing has been pretty limited. There's East Shore Live Jazz Cafe, which we like a lot, owned by local rock and jazz pioneer Liu Yuan. Centro's live music could certainly be classified as jazz, but it's not a dedicated jazz venue. A couple of other places like Dusk Dawn Club and Modernista have jazz performances, but are not jazz destinations. Leon Lee's Yue Fu Jazz Club and Tasting Room, opened specifically for jazz, closed within months.

Blue Note operates clubs in Milan, Tokyo, and Nagoya, along with their flagship venue in New York. "'China is an emerging market for live Western music,' said Steven Bensusan, the president of Blue Note Entertainment, whose other properties include the Highline Ballroom and B. B. King Blues Club & Grill. “We’ll be on the forefront of helping to build that market. It’s something that we’re in a unique position to do,'" he told the Times.

Corea is no stranger to Beijing, having performed to a very small but extremely enthusiastic audience att the Forbidden City Music Hall in October, 2007. A former Miles Davis band member in the late 1960s, Corea has won 22 Grammy awards, and been nominated 63 times. He's also performing at Blue Note Tokyo, and will help the jazz institution celebrate its birthday with a two-month residency at its original New York location from October to December.

We look forward to the Blue Note's opening, but will remain skeptical until we see a live music venue operating a stone's throw from the country's most sensitive political site racking up a waiting list for two shows per night.

 Photo: Twitter


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