I’m excited (and a little sad) to say that my brother and his family are returning home to the US from Shanghai April 1st. Excited as the twins will be closer to mom and I (and we can see them more frequently). However, there’s a tinge of sadness at the same time as we’ve really enjoyed visiting China and the surrounding environs. Yes we can return, but for some reason, there was a feeling of finality when mom and I left Shanghai this trip.
When faced with the proposition of our “last trip to China,” the Grubb clan stepped up and went bar-hopping to all our favorite music haunts!
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I absolutely love jazz; something about it just soothes my soul (although I’m not as well versed as I would like to be on artists). Our favorite music venue in Shanghai is House of Blues and Jazz. Mom and I make it a point to go here during every visit (sometimes twice depending on who’s playing). The musicians are top notch and come from around the world so you’ll get a wide variety of musical styles.
Jazz Band at the Fairmont Peace Hotel
It doesn’t get any more “old school” than the Jazz Band at the Peace Hotel. The building was completed in 1929 and still retains its art deco charm (thanks in large part to a 3-year renovation which shuttered the hotel in 2007). The results are no less than spectacular:
I typically start here for an hour or so before settling in for the long haul at House of Blues and Jazz or the Long Bar. The music is always fantastic but the huge drawback is the room lay-out. Unless you’re sitting at the bar, you’ll be viewing the band and singer in profile as the tables are on each side (the room is long and narrow with the band in the middle vs. being on either end). Again, it’s a really strange set-up and it doesn’t have the same intimacy that you’ll get at my other recommendations.
That said, the music coming from these musicians (with an average age of 80) is outstanding and you won’t be disappointed when you go (you would only be disappointed if you missed their set!)
Long Bar – Waldorf Astoria (on the Bund)
Around 1910, the Shanghai Club occupied the present location of the Waldorf Astoria and it was famous for having the longest bar in the Far East. The building changed hands many times (and the long bar was lost); however, thanks to the Waldorf Astoria, they’ve painstakingly recreated the Long Bar with every element reproduced from photos from its original heyday. This is a definite dress-up bar – a place to see and be seen – and it won’t hurt to be on an expense account when you stop here…..
Cotton Club (No. 1416 HuaiHai Road, near Fuxing Lu )
My final recommendation is the Cotton Club, a more “neighborhood” place than my other three recommendations (although the House of Blues and Jazz has a great mix of locals and ex-pats).
American Matthew Harding established this club in 1997 and it’s one of the few venues in Shanghai that still allows smoking (a bonus for the local Chinese population, many of whom smoke like fiends). The music is pure and passionate and goes on to the serious wee hours of the morning. This venue sees a higher end of guest musicians (Wynton Marsalis played here in late 2013); however, the smoke has made this a place that I typically can only stay an hour or two before I have to get fresh air. Drinks prices are reasonable and the music is fantastic. Highly recommended!
As you’re probably gathering from this blog post, Shanghai has an AMAZING music scene. Being from NYC, I’m used to a hopping nightlife, but I must admit, these are my favorite jazz clubs in the world (yes, more than any existing club in NYC)! Not much jazz in Indiana, but Mom also agrees that these music venues should be on your “must list” when visiting Shanghai!