Beijing jazz singer striking chord with American audiences

World Today

Beijing jazz singer striking chord with American audiences

Jazz is still foreign to many in China.

But Beijing native Annie Chen has captured the sound and made it her own.

Now, she’s taking her talents to one of the most competitive jazz scenes — New York.

CGTN’s Liling Tan reports that Chen is striking a chord with American audiences.

Described as a “small woman with a big voice,”  singer-composer Annie Chen surprises.

The petite Chinese jazz singer and her band – the Annie Chen Septet – wowed along Manhattan’s historic jazz street in Midtown East.

The Beijing-born vocalist and composer began studying piano at the age of four and has performed extensively in China.

But it was her passion for jazz that made her stand out in China’s nascent jazz scene, and her love for the voices of Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter that eventually drew her to New York.

52nd Street in Manhattan is known as “The Street”.  It was lined by jazz bars in the heyday of New York’s jazz scene, and it’s where icons like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis frequently performed. It’s this rich jazz legacy that drew Annie here to Manhattan. But the road here was not easy.

“Well, this is so much challenges,” said Chen.  “I think here at the center of the jazz world, too many good musicians. You can’t even imagine. So many good singers.”

“When I came here, I’m already kind of famous in China, so I can perform at all the clubs and all the jazz festivals,” Chen said. “But when I just came here, nobody knew me or who I am. You need to start from zero to build your project, to build your band.”

But the work has paid off, and she says playing to an audience with a deep appreciation of the genre strikes a major chord.

“In China, a lot of clubs some people will be talking and not really concentrate,” Chen explained. “But here, I feel like I got a lot of respect, respect from all the audiences because they’re going to your concern, they just want to listen to you. Is not that they just want to have a drink. So this is I feel is like I want to perform here because even if just ten audiences, but that’s fine. Because this ten audiences really focus on what I’m singing, what I’m doing, what I’m talking in concert.”

And that’s why there’s nowhere else in the world she’d rather be.