On April 4, as part of the jazz concert series- JZ in the Orient -the Shanghai Orient Art Centre welcomed jazz pianist David Braid for a Sunday afternoon concert. In the minimalist setting of a circular wooden stage, Braid, 35, strolled on with a familiarity born out of playing in Shanghai since 2004. Performing a concert entitled ‘Solo journey into the heart,’ Braid’s preparation ritual involved a meditative bowing of the head and meticulous hand-rubbing.
Perhaps he was avoiding a repeat of an earlier concert in Copenhagen. “I had to return to my hotel room just before the concert and all I could find was a bicycle. So I rode back just in time and had to start playing with really cold hands, that was hard.” Braid recalled.
The Canadian is more used to performing with a band- playing solo is relatively new -but Braid’s raw talent as a pianist was exhibited when his performances were roused into a faster pace. His fingers played with such measured ferocity that it seemed as if they were on fast-forward. Both hands, benefiting from 32 years of musical experience, enjoyed a prodigious familiarity. Braid’s left hand kept rhythm, whilst his right wandered around the keyboard, occasionally punching an atmospheric chord.
With a repertoire compromised largely of high-tempo numbers, Braid stirred his audience into a frenzy of sporadic toe-tapping. At one point, a younger member was inspired into rhythmically clapping his hands, before being swiftly rebuked by his parents. With a number of awards to his name, including the prestigious Juno award, Braid’s recital cannot be so easily profiled and the concert ranged from emotive twangs to delicate key-strokes, weaving a moody and serene ambience.
We caught up with Braid during the interval, where he was remarkably laid-back and came across as a well-spoken and modest musician. Braid felt privileged to be in different places like Shanghai and saw his role as an ambassador. “I feel an obligation to absorb the culture and mingle with the common person.” He even had a go at speaking Chinese to the audience, which was received with good humour.
Braid composes his own music and is responsible for over seventy songs, so where does he get the inspiration for this? “Inspiration is never direct as people assume, it’s so abstract and so many factors that come into play. Life is the main factor, but it’s all accumulative from different experiences.” One of Braid’s songs, Resolute bay, was inspired by the snow and cold of his homeland in Northern Canada.
Having collaborated with such diverse artists as Indian sitar exponent Vineet Vyas and Guzheng musician Chang Jing, Braid maintains that he cannot name his ideal partner. “It’s all based on the moment. They might not be a skilled player, but if you have the right connection then it will work.”
Playing since he was three years old, Braid has developed an intimate understanding with the music and sharing it with the audience. “The arts are a special, ancient thing, the exchange between the audience and musician is everything. That is my tireless endeavour.”
Currently in the beginning of a five week tour of China, Guangzhou and Beijing next, Braid will be returning to Shanghai on April 13 to collaborate with Chinese guitarist Lawrence Ku at the JZ Club.