Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wu Man and Ancient Chinese Bluegrass

THIS may sound crazy, but this chick kicks ass! if you doubt me, check this out. or consider the fact that avant-jazz madman henry threadgill caught a gig of wu man's back in the early '90s, soon after she'd arrived in the states from china, and asked her to play on his next record.

today i have a piece in the LATimes on wu, who plays the pipa, a two-thousand-year-old string instrument, a sort of mandolin/banjo, with amazingly contrasting styles. that is, it can be the most lyrical as well as the harshest of lutes.

her admirers include yo-yo ma, philip glass and the kronos quartet, with whom she's about to debut a new piece in new york.

wu plays on tuesday as part of an important festival of chinese music put on by both carnegie hall and the philharmonic society of orange county. she's playing not western classical or sacred chinese music, but as part of rustic "family bands" she has brought over from china.

dean corey, the society's southern-bred boss, remembers working in appalachia and seeing wild family groups come out of the woods to make bluegrass. "that's basically what this is," he says.

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