Compared with wind and brass, bowed string instruments tend to be featured less frequently in jazz, an observation equally applicable to the Chinese two-stringed fiddle, erhu. However, jazz compositions which utilize erhu may convey exceptional sound quality along with various Chinese characteristics. As a representative figure in Chinese jazz fusion, Kong Hongwei created the erhu and piano duet, Sanshui, in collaboration with the prominent erhu performer Song Fei. Lanhuahua, a famous Chinese folk song arranged by Kong’s student, Hu Xiaoyang, has been chosen as a comparison with Sanshui. Besides a literature review on jazz theory and instrumentation, the author has conducted interviews with Kong and Hu about their music, primary intentions, and musical expressions. In an almost reciprocal manner, Kong and Hu implement jazz characteristics by exploring the various aspects of erhu playing, such as improvisation, modern performance gesture, jazz rhythm, the treatment of blue notes, and in particular, its capability to imitate the intonation of the human voice, which is key to the promotion and popularization of jazz in China.
Sanshui: Approaching Jazz Fusion through Traditional Chinese Heritage
Lanhuahua: Jazz Rhythms and Blue Notes of Erhu