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JZ Club, Hangzhou China
Went to the JZ Club in Hangzhou, China last night. The original JZ Club is in Shanghai, China, but they opened up another location in Hangzhou a year or three ago (I'm not exactly sure when).

There aren't so many jazz clubs in the world, but you can probably count the number of times a jazz club has had multiple locations on one hand. In fact, right at this moment, I think it's two (JZ and the Blue Note). Yoshi's second location in San Francisco opens later this month, and there have been multi-location franchises in the past (Kimball's, for example), but I can only think of those two (Blue Note and JZ) right now... anywhere in the world. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, the other night when I was at the House of Blues and Jazz, I discovered that I knew the bass player who was playing in the house band at JZ in Hangzhou. Upon arrival, I discovered I knew the drummer, too. I had met both of them on previous trips to Shanghai and both are very capable musicians.

JZ in Hangzhou is a bit different from JZ in Shanghai in that, instead of each weeknight featuring a different group, there is just one 'house' band in Hangzhou. They are, of course, interrupted by special performances every now and then (true at both places, actually). The current lineup includes two Mauritians, Damien on Bass and Jason on Piano, with Ernesta Dunbar on Vocals and Ronnie Williams from New York on Drums. I had played with Damien previously at the House of Blues and Jazz. In fact, I believe it was when Edi was in Shanghai with me, and she probably met him.

The band played well, and I have to give Ernesta props for having enough skill to sing well under whatever circumstances existed at the time, but it was very clear to me that she was not entirely happy about being there. I could be mistaken, of course, but my sense of her disinterest in being there was rather overwhelming. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the set of standards they performed for us.

The club itself has some similarities with JZ in Shanghai, but is also different. It features table seating and a cushy bench along one wall which reminded me a bit of Small's in New York City (moreso because of its location and not its cushy-ness). The stage is open above to a second floor, similar to how JZ in Shanghai is laid out. Table seating in Hangzhou is a bit nicer and the club is brighter overall, leaving me with a warmer feeling. On the main floor, there was seating for about 55-55 with another 6-8 at the bar. I didn't count upstairs but I'd guess something in the 20-30 range. I didn't check on food, but the prices and selection of drinks was comparable to the club in Shanghai.

I've heard the Hangzhou location is doing well and the crowd seemed reasonably good size for a Tuesday night. The location is right near the West Lake and the presentation is somewhat up scale, but not snooty. I don't know if there are any other jazz clubs in Hangzhou but I'm pretty confident this would be the best thing going. And I certainly enjoyed it...

I hear I've got a new Blues club to check out in Shanghai... Maybe next week ;)

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Curious... what gave you the impression that Ernesta wasn't interested in being there? That seating also reminds me a little of Promentory... although they had the banquette seatting on both sides of the main dining room but I really like that set up and I think it helps to seat a few more if need-be.

The only (rare) smiles looked obviously put on. Everything felt rushed... not the tempo of the songs, but the pace of the whole set. The band played a couple songs first. She came and sat down in the front (no socializing) after the set started and when she left, she was gone before I could blink. Even as she sang, though she had skill, it was almost as though she felt like she shouldn't be there. One thing was obvious: she was not pleased with the people who were smoking. There was a fan on the stage which she turned on and aimed at the people who were smoking so that the smoke would blow back at them.

As for the seating, I'd have to draw a picture, but it wasn't quite like the promentory. There were no chairs on the 'outside', just round tables in front of the bench. Also it went the whole way up to and beside the stage. I'll draw ya a picture when I get home ;)


Sadly, Ernesta died a couple of years ago, in Malaysia. She had been performing a bit at Sappho, here in Taipei. As I'm a co-owner of the club, we held a memorial gig for her, which was well attended by many of her friends.

Ernesta, RIP.

Wow... I'm sorry to hear of her passing. RIP Ernesta..........

Ack.. and CJW in Shanghai, too. What is it with China-based jazz club franchises???

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