Sunday, October 7, 2018

Little Happiness Group - DEBUT (EATING MUSIC 2018)

Multi-talented vocalist Voision Xi is well known to anyone in Shanghai jazz circles. She’s been heavily involved behind the scenes of Shanghai jazz for many years now, but DEBUT represents her stepping out to claim the spotlight – with a little help from some notable Shanghai jazz friends. 

In 2015, Voision founded her first band, the Little Happiness Trio (then Quartet, then Quintet), gathering together a number of outstanding jazz professionals. After playing together for the past three years, the band has honed a sound that places Voision’s natural warmth and touching vocals at its heart. 

Released on new independent lable Eating Music on 29th September 2018, DEBUT is a collection of covers all given the Little Happiness Group treatment, with Voision joined by young Chinese jazz pioneers Zhang Xiongguan, Li Shihai, Xiao Jun, as well as remarkable musicians Huang Jianyi, Joseph Han and Jaemin Lee. Featuring five of Voision’s favourite tracks, DEBUT sees her bring a characteristic sincerity and a personal twist to songs first made famous by Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Nick Drake among others. 

Such names will be familiar to any music fan, but Voision’s versions contain a strong streak of originality, putting a new spin on old favourites. As guitarist, arranger and producer Zhang Xiongguan puts it, “Voision is one of the few musicians who jumps outside their comfort zone all the time.” 

This spirit – and Xiongguan’s guitar work – is prominent on EP opener "Slow Hot Wind" (original named "Lujon"), Herny Mancini’s classic 1961 composition which was first released on the soundtrack to Mr. Lucky Goes Latin. Xiongguan’s arrangement is an imaginative modern jazz piece, with a distinct vibrancy and warmth. Similarly, "How Insensitive" sees Xiongguan take Antonio Carlos Jobim’s original and supplement it with busy guitar playing and an impressive solo. "I once wondered if such changes would be difficult for the singer to adapt to,” admits Xiongguan of the bold covers. “But the excellent interpretation of these two pieces by Voision and the band completely dispelled my concerns. They also fully met the intention of my arrangement.” 

"River Man" (originally by legendary British folk singer Nick Drake) is an adaptation by saxophonist Li Shihai. In addition to the five beat rhythm and water-like texture of the original song, Li manipulates his sax and synchronises with Voision’s floating vocals to propel the track toward an emotional climax. “Boplicity / Be Bop Lives” from the famous Birth of Cool album by Miles Davis is the only fast-tempo bebop classical on the EP, and comes laced with elements of standard jazz and swing. Voision sings and scats along with the brass melody, meeting this challenge to the singer’s pitch and rhythm with aplomb. "I really appreciate the sound of Voision: warm but not boring, soft and dynamic, just like the voice of a good storyteller,” says Shihai, who arranged both these tracks. “Cooperating with her is a process full of imagination and challenges. We experimented a lot with the vocal harmony to make the singles sound different.” 

"Cause We've Ended As Lovers" comes from Stevie Wonder's album to his former wife Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta. Arranger Xiao Jun uses guitar effects to create a swirling backdrop, as Voision delivers multiple vocal harmonies that fully express the singer’s feelings of struggle and sorrow. Xiao Jun says: "I was trying my best to arrange the song according to Voision’s tone; I did it differently from the instrumental music that I usually write. And through the background sound of the guitar effects, the song captures the melancholy of the singer’s voice along with its pureness." 

DEBUT is not only an EP of jazz music, but also a multimedia work that attracts friends from different fields to come together as a composite of complex beauty. In addition to creating the EP cover, Voision's friend, the illustrator Garlic Sugar, produced five hand-painted works for each of the five singles based on the feelings the artist experienced while listening to them. Also, the dessert brand “HER chocolate” has made five different flavours of chocolate to go with the EP, that will be sold via Eating Music’s official channels. The packaging for each chocolate type features a QR code so that consumers can listen to the corresponding song as they munch away. 

DEBUT, the very first EP from Little Happiness Group, is both a challenge and a balm. It represents both the beauty of imagination and a place you can go to find inspiration. 

编曲:张雄关 (第1,2,6首), 李世海 (第4,5首), 肖骏 (第3首)
吉他:张雄关 (第1,2,6首), 肖骏 (第3首)
萨克斯:李世海 (除第3,6首以外)
木贝司:Joseph Han (除第6首以外)
鼓:Jaemin Lee (除第6首以外)
键盘:黄健怡 (第5首)

Arrangement: Zhang Xiongguan (1,2,6), Li Shihai (4,5), Xiao Jun (3 only)
Vocal: Voision Xi
Guitar: Zhang Xiongguan (1,2,6), Xiao Jun (3 only)
Saxophone: Li Shihai (all except 3,6)
Double Bass: Joseph Han (all except 6)
Drums: Jaemin Lee (all except 6)
Keyboard: Huang Jianyi (5 only)
Produced by Zhang Xiongguan
Co-producer: Voision Xi
Executive Producer: Cookie Zhang
录音棚:上海 Postape 录音工作室 (2018年3月)
Recorded at Postape Studio Shanghai, in March 2018
录音:李炜宇, 胡仕俊
Recording by Weiyu Li, Austin Hu
Mixing & Mastering by Austin Hu
Artwork by GarlicSugar
Copywrite by Cleo Wu
Liner Note by Zhang Xiongguan
Photography by Wang Wei

1. Intro 01:00
2. Slow Hot Wind 02:30
3. Cause We've Ended As Lovers 06:04
4. Be Bop Lives (Boplicity) 04:01
5. River Man 05:14
6. How Insensitive 04:00