Monday, April 19, 2010

Far East meets West Coast (sort of)

While Bay Area label Ubiquity Records is the epitome of the relaxed West Coast vibe - dropping beats that seem crafted by and for stoners - they sometimes go outside their wheelhouse (particularly on the Luv 'N Haight imprint). Acts like Nomo and Clutchy Hopkins are indicative of the label's 'sound' and Shawn Lee's solo work certainly fits snugly within the fold, but his collaboration with gu-zheng artist Bei Bei He certainly raised my eyebrows at first.

The gu-zheng is an ancient 21-stringed Chinese instrument and Bei Bei has been playing it since the age of seven. Despite her traditional instruction at a Hong Kong music conservatory, she started looking at incorporating jazz elements into her music (perhaps influenced by the great Dorothy Ashby?). Enter Shawn Lee who contacted Bei Bei and proposed a collaboration. After a brief in-person meeting, the two worked online and crafted the material on Into The Wind - a blend of new sounds and longstanding gu-zheng pieces.

If Quentin Tarantino were looking to do another Shaw Brothers-style flick, he could begin by using this album as the soundtrack. Bei Bei and Lee have crafted an album that is cinematic in scope and deftly blends the new with the old. Gu-zheng proves to be just as flexible an instrument as the piano, with the added benefit of possessing a more novel sound.

Take a gander at "Hot Thursday" from Into The Wind:

And be sure to check out Bei Bei's Myspace page, Shawn Lee's website and Myspace page.

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