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Jazz Festival: William Yu & Tanya Li, Greg Malcolm

Jazz Festival Review: William Yu & Tanya Li, Greg Malcolm

Review by Kate Kennedy

William Yu & Tanya Li
Greg Malcolm
The Frontroom
November 9

William Yu & Tanya
Click to enlarge

William Yu & Tanya Li

William Yu & Tanya Li

Talk about muscle memory – what a master of movement! William Yu plays the Chinese Dulcimer: it’s like a piano in the fact that it’s a stringed percussive instrument, but it has more sustain and more control because he is directly beating the strings rather than using the hammers like a piano. Using his fingers, hands and beaters he weaves his incredible magic over this wonderful instrument.

The Erhu is a violin-type instrument that sits on Tanya’s lap and bowed across her body – essentially like a mini cello. The Dulcimer is hammered and the Erhu is bowed, however they are both plucked and used to their infinite ability. In fact Tanya really made the Erhu sound like a voice. She made it laugh, cry, dance, sing, play space invaders and tune into the aliens using rhythmical comedy. William is a perfect accompanist to Tanya and they complement and play together as if they were always supposed to

Is so classically Asian but I can hear lots of styles of music, from Jazz to Irish jigs - Asian Fusion at its best! In fact I keep thinking I can hear a tune start and then its something completely different. They are very unpredictable – always moving into different ideas.

Honestly Tanya really makes the Erhu sing. With a wind/brass instrument you have a lot of control with your mouth and air supply, but with this string instrument it seems a physical part of her even though it’s external and not related to her vocals in any way! You can hear the emotion, turmoil and history penetrating your senses. The Epic landscape of sounds visually conjures up the green pastures and mountains of home.

The dulcimer is hard to keep in tune so there were lots of short interludes. It is a pleasure to see him take such care over his intonation and really show you the level of both their musicianship. To get it in tune is so worth it because he is not far short of brilliant! He has such precision, power, versatility and control over the dynamics and effects. There are many reoccurring themes which create this hauntingly beautiful music, and you can feel the emotion grasping you.

This is no kitsch Chinese restaurant getup folks - this is the real deal!

Lots of wow factor and plenty of comedy to boot – overall an extremely well finished performance that I felt very honoured to see.

Greg Malcolm
Click to enlarge

Greg Malcolm

Greg Malcolm

SPRINGTASTIC, STRINGSATIONAL performance from Greg this evening with lashings of comedy on top.

Malcom was playing some tunes written by Steve Lacy. Steve Lacy – born in1934 – wrote Dixieland tunes and ended up playing with Cecil Taylor and Thelonious Monk.. The first song is called ‘prayer’ and is dedicated to Lacy who died in 2004.

Malcom is very much like an artist/percussionist I know of called Dave Hassell. But Dave plays the drums and Greg plays 3 guitars like he’s playing the drums! Yes, 3 guitars at once. He has 2 on his feet and one on his lap with slinkys hanging off the neck and a minefield of pickups all over! When he walks away from his guitars and starts flicking elastic bands at them with the effect of bombing them – it is highly amusing. Elastic Fantastic indeed! Elastic bands were used in bizarre ways – even put a couple over his face and head to create almost a disfigurement. Which is what I think he is doing with the music – disfiguring it – which is where the Monk influences, the contentious issue of Monk and whether or not he was a genius (of course he was!), come in.

Malcom uses everyday objects like ‘slinkys’, a ‘steelo’, a camera, a knife, a ruler, as well as his feet and arms, to make a very unique style; harmonic heaven with songs called ‘Bones’, ‘Meltronics’, ‘Life on its way’… It is experimental brilliance. Probably not the best music to air on the radio, unless you have seen him live and know how he’s making the rhythm and melody. Visually awesome a real performer!

He says ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that spring’. A highly comical character!

Reminded me of a mixture of Tommy Emmanuel (Aus)/Dave Hassell (UK)/Dudley Moore (UK).

Kate Kennedy, International Musician.


Wellington International Jazz festival homepage:

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