The Jazz Tellers, a group comprised of Berklee College of Music scholarship students Nate Wong (drums), Clay Lyons (alto saxophone), Lee Dynes (guitar), and Robert Kang (guitar) embark on an ambitious summer tour of clubs, cultural arts centers, and music education institutions that includes 10 performances in Hong Kong, and Shenzhen, China; educational clinics; and concerts in Ohio, Wisconsin, and California.
The tour began in the U.S. on May 10 with stops in each member’s hometown Dayton, Ohio; Madison, Wisconsin; and the San Francisco Bay Area and proceeds to Hong Kong and mainland China for 10 shows between May 28 and June 12. The Jazz Tellers then return to the U.S. and wrap up the tour with performances back in Wisconsin and Ohio, June 16 to 22. The upcoming schedule is below, or visit myspace.com/thejazztellers for a complete list of tour dates.
Wong formed The Jazz Tellers specifically for the tour, although the members have been living and playing together for two years. In that time they have developed a repertoire of imaginative originals and freshly interpreted standards based on improvisation, dynamics, and textural subtleties. Wong is originally from Hong Kong and returns every other year to perform with local musicians in the small but enthusiastic jazz scene. This time, he had the idea to bring the other members along.
Says Wong; "I'm especially excited to have my band from Berklee with me. The level of musicianship in the jazz community in Hong Kong is lower than in the U.S. because of the lack of access to musicians, shows, and educators. This will be a wonderful opportunity for both parties to learn from each other."
Educational clinics are a key component of the tour. The Jazz Tellers ran workshops for high school students in Ohio and California, and will give a clinic at The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology on June 8.
Wong explains, "Sharing our music with young people is very fulfilling and important. Clay and I have both worked at music camps and Lee has taught clinics. We use that experience to teach kids about the spirit of jazz and improvising, and overarching musical ideas such as dynamics, grooves, and textures." He continues, "We encourage kids to play with us at every clinic. So far it has been very well received and a lot of fun. It's great to see young people enthusiastic about jazz."
With an eye towards developing the band on a business level, Wong, Lyons, and Dynes booked the tour entirely themselves. Wong says this was the most labor-intensive part of the endeavor. "While we wanted to spend our time rehearsing, we had to sit behind our computers writing emails, making phone calls, and designing posters and press kits. We hope to build our audience for a future tour that would involve a booking agency and larger venues."
Local trumpeter Kwok Wing Hei who joins the tour in Hong Kong, along with bassist Tsang Tak Hong helped the band make inroads in mainland China. Hei connected them with Hong Kong-based sponsor Pro Music, who booked them into the Shenzhen Art and Cultural Center on June 11 for a cultural exchange event promoting jazz in China.
Jazz Tellers Tour 2010:
• May 28, The Fringe Club, Central, Hong Kong • May 29, The Backstage, Central, Hong Kong • June 3, Cali Cali, Tsim Shai Tsui, Hong Kong • June 4, Shatin Town Hall, Shatin, Hong Kong • June 5, The Melting Pot, Central, Hong Kong • June 8, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Clinic, Hong Kong • June 9, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Concert, Hong Kong • June 11, Shenzhen Art and Cultural Center, Shenzhen, China • June 12, Peel Fresco, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong • June 16, The Brink Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin • June 18, Sugar Maple Milwaukee, Wisconsin • June 19, Lyon's House Concert Black Earth, Wisconsin • June 20, Spinoza, Beaver Creek, Ohio • June 22, Troy Hayner Cultural Center, Troy, Ohio