JazzPortraits blogger Joe Moore (who is also Station Manager of KFSR FM in Fresno, California) asks Jazz in China? to which I reply with the first paragraph from William Zinsser’s “Mitchell & Ruff: An American Profile in Jazz”
“Jazz came to China for the first time on the afternoon of June 2, 1981, when the American bassist and French-horn player Willie Ruff introduced himself and his partner, the pianist Dwike Mitchell, to several hundred students and profesors who were crowded into a large room at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.The students and the professors were all expectant, without knowing quite what to expect. They only knew that they were about to hear the first American jazz concert ever presented to the Chinese. Probably they were not surprised to find that the two musicians were black, though black Americans are a rarity in the People’s Republic. What they undoubtedly didn’t expect was that Ruff would talk to them in Chinese, and when he began they mummered with delight.”
Originally published in 1984, with a foreword by Alfred Murray, this once-out-of-print book has been reissued in paperback by Paul Dry Books. (They also re-issued Boston Boy by Nat Hentoff.)
Ruff’s web site includes a page about the duo and I was also happy to find a CD, Breaking the Silence – Standards, Strayhorn & Lullabies, newly issued in celebration of the re-issued book. Also of great interest is Jerry Jazz Musician’s interview with Zinsser about “his special friendship with Mitchell and Ruff, their background, and the incredible journeys he accompanied them on throughout the world.”
Note: Photo credit for the picture belongs to Reginald Jackson.