'Oldest jazz band' a constant in ever-changing Shanghai
2017-09-07 09:52:00

Li Minsheng is one of the junior members of the "Old Jazz Band" at Shanghai's ornate Fairmont Peace Hotel. He's 76.

Frequently described as the oldest jazz band on the planet, and once recognized as such by Guinness World Records, its six wizened members range from a relatively youthful 63 to a hardly believable 97-year-old trumpeter.

They are an institution in Shanghai and a rare constant in a city and country that are modernizing at breakneck speed.

Li has been performing jazz for at least 40 years, "I got this saxophone in the 1960s and have played it ever since."

Jazz is more readily associated with New Orleans or New York than Shanghai, but the Chinese city has its own proud heritage that struggles on.

During Shanghai's 1930s heyday, the bar where the "Old Jazz Band" now plays 365 nights of the year became so well known for its jazz – which arrived in the city around that time, when American musicians were hired to play at nightclubs – that it became simply known as "The Jazz Bar".

The "Old Jazz Band", which attempts to revive the bar's 1930s air, has been a fixture at the hotel since 1980.

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are among the dignitaries who have dropped in for an evening of jazz – Clinton, who plays the sax, even joined in.

The band's average age is 82 and plays what it calls "soft jazz" and with a distinct Shanghainese flavor.

And the million-dollar question: When does Li plan to close the lid on his saxophone case for the last time?

"Generally speaking, playing the sax has an age limit," he grinned.

But as long as he remains enthusiastic and people keep filling the bar to listen, he plans to carry on.

Source:CGTN Editor:Hiram