China in her Hand — Sinne Eeg
Jazz has gone from lobby to hobby in China, which is good news for songstress Sinne Eeg. Asia has served as her springboard to the rest of the world.
Sinne Eeg has taken both Danish and international jazz audiences by storm in recent years. Whether singing her own songs or interpreting classics, she has been widely praised for her soft, elegant phrasing with just a hint of danger.
Early on in her career, Eeg realized that if she was ever going to get anywhere she’d have to make it happen herself. “You have to take it from the bottom up,” says Eeg. “You get nothing from sitting and waiting for Blue Note Records to call, or waiting to be asked to plays tadium gigs. I’ve learned that you have to take the less lucrative jobs first if you want to forge the right contacts. I paid for my first recordings myself and did most of the practical work associated with the releases. I made sure that jazz clubs and the media knew all about my music by making lots of phone calls and sending lots of e-mails. It has been a long, slow process to reach the stage I’m at now. It takes patience.”
Big in Japan
Eeg’s journey began back in 2003 with the release of her self-titled debut album, which was to take her, somewhat by chance, to Japan and China. She found herself in Japan as the conductor of an amateur choir, which enabled her to meet new people and led to a tour of the country with the Martin Schack Trio. Pianist Martin Schack’s brother was living in Shanghai at the time, which opened the gateway to China. “We punted my CD around various clubs in Shanghai,” she recalls. “One owner wanted to hire us for three months. That was a bit unusual, but of course we said yes. It was in Shanghai’s oldest jazz club, which is owned by a famous Chinese actor who is also a jazz enthusiast. It was a great job.”
Eeg has learned that there are big differences between Japanese and Chinese jazz audiences. “The Japanese have a long tradition of being into jazz and listening to the music in clubs,” she says. “The first time I played a gig there, I was a bit taken aback by the enthusiastic response. The audiences are definitely not as shy and polite as you might think. They holler and join in, and a lot of them have an almost nerdy interest in Scandinavian jazz. Jazz is a bit more of a recent phenomenon in China, but a lot has changed since our first visit. A few years ago, jazz was mainly confined to expensive hotel lobbies – s little more than background music. Now, you can tell that a lot of Chinese listeners have acquired a deeper interest in the music and its artistic dimensions, which is nice.”
Eeg’s music is also starting to win over audiences beyond China, Japan and her home country. Sweden, Norway and Germany are showing interest, and her most recent Danish-language album – “Kun en drøm” (“Only a Dream”) – has just been reissued in English as “Remembering You”. Curiously enough, she first met the album’s Danish producer, Chris Minh Doky, in Tokyo. “I often meet Danish colleagues abroad, which says something about the impression that Danish jazz has made,” Eeg explains. “I met Chris Minh Doky via Diana Krall’s manager Mary-Ann Topper, who had heard us play a club in Tokyo. Later, she met Chris, who was also touring Japan, and encouraged him to go to one of my gigs. He did so, and a few months later we were recording “Kun en drøm” together, which includes interpretations of old Danish film and stage classics.”