Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra Celebrates Chinese Moon Festival

Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra at the Baked Potato.
Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra at the Baked Potato.

The Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra, an award-winning 17-piece big band, will be performing at The Baked Potato this Sunday, September 9, at 9 p.m., in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. There will be moon cake tasting courtesy of Kee Wah Bakery. Alan Chan, a faculty member at El Camino College, and the composer and conductor of ACJO, talks about the upcoming concert.

What does the Mid-Autumn Festival mean to you?

Alan Chan: Mid-Autumn Festival (or Moon Festival), a lesser known Chinese celebration in the U.S., has a very special meaning to me. Since leaving Hong Kong to study in the U.S., this festival reminds me about friends and family living far away but we celebrate on the same day – the biggest full moon of the year. Moon cake, a dessert cake usually made of lotus seed paste, is my favorite thing to enjoy. Often an egg yolk is added to symbolize the round shape of the moon. In Chinese culture, the moon often represents perfectness due to its [perfectly] round shape, and we are always longing for a better or a perfect life (if there is such a thing)!

How have you expressed these images and sentiments in your music?

Lion Rock, a mountain in Hong Kong, often symbolizes the “Hong Kong Dream,” with a humble beginning as a small fishing village but has turned into a mega metropolis – an economic miracle. So I wrote “Lion Rock from Afar” based on this idea, and “From Afar” really expresses my longing in this piece of where I grew up, but now from a distance.

The recent Hurricane Harvey disaster reminds me another tune I wrote “Tsu Zu Ku” which means “to be continued” in English, after Japan’s 3/11 Earthquake in 2011. Instead of describing the loss and destruction, I want to bring a sense of hope to the music. Like many of my storytelling tunes, I juxtapose a swell of big band sound with something very delicate, often a solo piano or guitar, to create a focal point or surprise to the audience; I hope to encourage them to look at the music in various perspectives.

Can you give us a hint about what new pieces you will be presenting?

Since releasing my first album “Shrimp Tale” in 2014, I have been collaborating with a number of artists. You will hear an arrangement of singer-songwriter Toonyun’s “My Happy Drunk Bossa” which is a beautiful tune about love. I often like to expand the “bandwidth” (or “spectrum”) of sound color in my arrangements to give my listeners a little of my insight to the story behind the tunes. The “Camel Walk” project I started with Chinese double-reed horn player Guo Yazhi from Boston sparked several creative pieces. You will hear a blues song that I created originally for him and is rearranged for soloists in my band! For this upcoming show on 9/10, I will be collaborating with singer-songwriter Jennifer Wabich.

The Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra performs this Sunday, September 10, 9 p.m., at The Baked Potato, 3787 Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604; $20 cover, $15 for students with ID.

This article is cross-published in Alhambra Source.

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