Tomorrow night is Bluegrass Night at the Wooden Box and the Shanghai Newgrass Project will perform its world music take on the grassroots American country sound.
The performing duo includes Tom Pang from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region playing mandolin and American Adam Brooks Dudding on guitar. Both are vocalists.
The Shanghai Newgrass Project is an ensemble of eight musicians who come together for recordings in Shanghai, but performances are usually staged by Pang and Dudding, occasionally joined by others. Shanghai-based jazz vocalist Jasmine Chen is part of the larger group.
The duo performs every Friday at the Wooden Box on Qinghai Road. Tomorrow night Pang and Dudding will play selections from the just-released album “In the Moment,” which was recorded in Shanghai and then mixed and mastered in Nashville, Tennessee.
The album and performances offer elements and combinations of American art forms like bluegrass, country, blues and jazz along with unique twists of Chinese folk and pop songs including Mongolian throat-singing.
The Shanghai Newgrass Project includes Chinese musicians, such as professional electric bassist Shun Zi, who is Pang’s roommate, assorted Americans, and a Serbian who brings a Balkan folk vibe to the recordings. Instruments include guitars, dobro, mandolin, folk violin, fiddle, banjo and other folk instruments.
“The type of music we create together reminds us all of our homelands and the often longed-for simplicity of that way of life,” says 38-year-old Dudding, a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Nashville. He and Pang cofounded the Shanghai Newgrass Project.
“With the project, we can fuse all the places and sounds together into a unique and beautiful form of world music,” Dudding says.
The project began as a duo in 2011 when Pang and Dudding were introduced by Jasmine Chen in Shanghai. Dudding had just arrived in Shanghai for a month on his first trip to China.
“Chen told me Pang was the only Chinese musician in Shanghai who plays bluegrass, and on the mandolin, no less, a traditional bluegrass instrument usually found only in America,” Dudding recalls.
They started playing together at small bars and music venues.
“Our talents and musical education complemented each other extraordinarily well, making it easy to share our repertoire of songs. We were able to quickly build up an exciting set-list of original and traditional songs,” Dudding says.
Soon they were playing almost every day. They discovered a common goal and vision of gathering like-minded international musicians for collaborative recordings and run of performances in Shanghai.
“Pang is a virtuosic musician and incredible performer. His ear for music includes near-perfect pitch combined with an understanding of and sensitivity for country and bluegrass music that defies comprehension at times,” Dudding observes.
Pang studied classical violin in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, when he was young. He studied mandolin at the Inner Mongolian School of Music after hearing American bluegrass music from visiting scholars. He moved to Shanghai in 2005.
“Dudding is a professional and when we play music together there’s a noticeably unique, deep musical connection and emotion between us, which we continue to mine and cultivate as we grow together as performers,” Pang says.
“In forming this ensemble, we wanted musicians to combine the sounds of different musical traditions in a unique way to add our own twist to the rapidly growing genre known as world music.”
The duo became a trio when Shun Zi joined them on bass. Last year it expanded.
The new CD “In the Moment” refers to the way the ensemble of eight came together in Shanghai for just 10 days to make music.
“I’d like Chinese audiences to learn about bluegrass and country music. Jazz continues to be very popular here in Shanghai which is good, especially with its urban sound, but bluegrass and country help people remember their hometowns and life in the countryside, something familiar and relaxing unlike the complexities of jazz.”
The Shanghai Newgrass Project will stage a concert on August 24 to promote their new album at the JZ Club’s newest venue at 570 Huaihai Road W.