Yang Ying
Gig Seeker Pro

Yang Ying


Band World Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Without a doubt, at the top of the musical food chain"

A gem is in our midst. Her name is Yang Ying, a transplant from China who currently resides in Champaign-Urbana and New York City. Her new CD, Blurring Boundaries, is an eclectic mix of musical styles that bridges east with west, past with present, and classic with contemporary and is unlike anything you've ever heard before.

Distinguished as one of China's foremost erhu players, Yang Ying preformed as a featured soloist in China's premier traditional musical and dance troupe for nearly twenty years, during which time she appeared before three American presidents: Nixon, Ford and Carter. In 1996 she was featured in the Chinese government's publication of Famous Persons in China.

If you've never heard the erhu, (pronounced ar-hoo), and I dare say most Americans have not, it will take you by surprise. It is a breathtaking example of what the human heart might sound like if it could actually sing. The erhu is a fretless, two-stringed bowed instrument that generates an ethereal sound that connects directly with the seat of our emotions. It would be an understatement to compare its tone with that of a Western violin; the erhu is much more soulful and expressive. But that's the closest correlation. While stories of its origin date to the Tang Dynasty (618-907, CE) it did not become popular in China until the Song Dynasty (960-179, CE). The drum-like mahogany sound box is covered with a snakeskin head, and the two steel strings, stretched from the sound box along a narrow bridge, generate sound with a horse-hair bamboo bow. The erhu, also referred to as Hu-Qin, has a musical span of about four octaves and is basically a mid-high-toned instrument whose mid-low tone sounds forceful and lavish while its mid tone is gentle and touching. The high tone is clear and bright. The instruments lack of a finger board allows for enormous flexibility and affords the player and expressiveness approaching a human voice.

You will hear just such an expressive voice in Yang Ying's newest CD which opens with "Uninhibited," a heart-lurching piece whose opening phrase is a pounding percussion that moves into a compelling rhythmic beat. The integration of Yang Ying's specialty, the ehru, lends a most unusual strain to the piece. According to Ying, "Uninhibited" is inspired by native Mongolian music and Xian drum styles. The work includes keyboards by Neal Robinson and percussion by Chad Dunn, with Jeff Magby on drums and Chin-Fei Chan on flute. Josh Walden performs on bass guitar. In this heady blend of east and west (a contemporary mix of Xian drum styles and American jazz, rock, and funk influences), Ying's ehru takes a back seat and blends with the other instruments. The piece is pure abandon and ends with the musicians' exuberant laughter in the background--a symptom of their own excitement and pleasure.

Yang Ying says she learned her instrument under the tutelage of her father, starting at around five years of age. By the age of 13, she was playing solo concerts in her hometown, the Henan Province near the Chen Village. She graduated from the Opera University of Henan to become the featured soloist for the Chinese National Song and Dance Ensemble in Beijing, a position she held from 1978 to 1996.

However Ying's interests meandered well beyond Chinese traditional music. She formed the first all-girl Chinese rock band, Cobra, in 1989. Ying played bass and sang. Cobra gained national and international recognition in 1990 during the month of the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre and continued for two years to play music outside the government-approved realm.

According to Ying, artists like Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus are among her musical influences, along with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. In 1998, she cut a track with Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers, with Neville on sax and Yang Ying on erhu.

The Monk influence can be heard in the beautiful piece, "'Round Midnight," a classic of western jazz re-imagined through the exquisite timbre of the erhu. Tom Paynter is featured on piano, Jeff Magby on drums, and Ben Taylor on upright bass. The sound is so pure it could make a grown man cry.

The influence of Charles Neville can be heard in tunes that approach country western music, with a Creole twist. "Funky Chinese Jig" is an imaginative combination of tribal music from southwestern China, with a bit of Nashville funk.

The album also includes traditional pieces composed for erhu, such as "Sai Ma" ("Horse Race") or the folk song, "Jiang He Shui" ("River of Tears").

The caliber of musicianship on Blurring Boundries, is superb; its exquisite resonance puts the work, without a doubt, at the top of the musical food chain.

Blurring Boundaries was created by Wensar Records, produced by Yang Ying, recorded by Ben Taylor, Mark Rubel and Yang Ying, mixed by Yang Ying, and mastered by Blaise Barton.

-JENNY SOUTHLYNN - phamphletpress.org.

"Virtuosity beyond impressive technical achievement"

Ying's virtuosity goes beyond impressive technical achievement. The expressive power of her playing truly transcends any challenges that might exist for an audience to experience an unfamiliar instrument and an unknown repertoire. It was clear to me and everyone that I've spoken with that Ying won over the audience. They were deeply moved by her performance. - WTTW-11 TV Producer Dan Andries

"Ying erases musical, cultural differences"

Duluth News Tribune

Published November 21 2009

By: John Ziegler, For the News Tribune

Yang Ying is a gentle giant, and you should know her name.

She is a revolutionary who is methodically and melodically erasing barriers between countries, between cultures and between ways of thinking.

Last night at the Mitchell Auditorium, Ying, with disarming precision and dexterity, took an audience of music enthusiasts on a mind-bending ride that magically melded East and West, ancient and contemporary, and classical and rock ’n’ roll.

Her vehicle is a 2-stringed traditional Chinese instrument called the erhu. It sits vertically on her left hip and is actually bowed, not over the strings violin-style, but between the strings in a tangled fashion that made me look twice and wonder who came up with this design.

On this child-like, almost toy-looking ax, Yang Ying combines the technique of classical music, the creativity of jazz, the passion of rock ’n’ roll, and the depth of her indigenous roots into a fusion that is breathtaking and an aural feast.

“Uninhibited” opened the evening with a driving backbeat, erasing all thoughts that this would be a sedate encounter. Sitting center stage amid her rhythm section, traditional Chinese hat pulled down to almost cover her eyes, Ying took flight sounding like Jean Luc Ponty from a ’70s fusion concert. She bowed and bent notes effortlessly through a complicated maze of 10/8 and 11/8 time signatures and made the erhu sing like a Stradivarius mated with an electric guitar.

In traditional Chinese music, a culture in which music, medicine and happiness are all intertwined both symbolically and in thought, proper expression of each note is prized over speed and flashiness. On the lovely ancient piece “Autumn Moon Over The Han Palace,” Ying showed exacting skill as her dissemination of the melody line was flawless.

Jazz legend Thelonius Monk’s classic “Round Midnight” was rhapsodic and sounded like Monk composed its gorgeous melody specifically for the erhu. Ying’s touch was so delicate that it sounded like a hummingbird fluttering over the harmony. Her improvisation was spellbinding and melded hypnotically with pianist Sam Gingher’s flight of fancy.

Nashville meets New Orleans meets Beijing was the menu on “Funky Chinese Jig.” Ying pulled out all the stops in this original work and sounded like Bob Will’s fiddler Johnny Gimble in overdrive. Guitarist Matt Stewart chicken-picked his Telecaster to the bone, matching Ying’s imagination and energy.

A Led Zeppelin medley of “Stairway To Heaven” and “Rock ’N’ Roll” was the perfect conclusion to a night that was both impressive and illuminating.

As incomparable jazz innovator Charlie Parker said “…?they teach you there’s boundaries to music. But, man, there’s no boundary to art.” Yang Ying showed Northlanders last night, with compelling mastery of her chosen instrument, just how universal the language of music really is. - Duluth News Tribune

"Best Instrumentalist and Ensemble of 2009"

The best music of 2009
Published December 31 2009

By: John Ziegler, Duluth News Tribune

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I try to avoid end-of-the-year “best of” lists because they are expected; they are often clichéd and usually boring. That’s all it took for many readers to let me know that they look forward to end-of-the-year “best of” lists … and why don’t I do one. So I will.

Best Instrumentalist in Concert
Yang Ying at the Mitchell Auditorium. Bridging continents and cultures, Ying’s touch on her chosen instrument, the erhu (the Chinese violin) was otherworldly.

Best Ensemble in Concert
Yang Ying Ensemble from the Mitchell Auditorium. From all over the country they backed and melded with the erhu beautifully.

Best Disc of 2009
Heather Masse’s “Bird Song.”

Best Original Song on Disc
“Love Is a Burden” by the Hudsons from the disc “Before I Sleep.”

Best Cover Version on Disc
“Take Me Home Tonight” from Jamestown Story’s “Love vs. Life.”

Best Male Vocalist on Disc
Cliff Eberhardt from “500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions.”

Best Female Vocalist on Disc
Heather Masse (see above)

Best Concert
B.B. King in Carlton at the Otter Creek Event Center.

Best Ensemble on Disc
Lamont Cranston Band from the disc “Lamont Live!”

Best Outdoor Concert
Sugar Blue at the Bayfront Blues Festival.

Best Moment in a Variety Concert
The Rivulets at Sacred Heart during the 40th anniversary of Woodstock concert. Nathan Amundson’s brief take on “I Put a Spell on You” put a spell on me. It was mesmerizing.

Best Instrumentalist on Disc
Sam Miltich from the Clearwater Hot Club and their release “Just You, Just Me.”

Best Male Vocalist in Concert
Garnet Rogers at the Duluth Congregational Church.

Best Female Vocalist in Concert
Keri Noble at Sacred Heart.

Most Humorous Moment in Concert
Kids on stage during the Lorie Line concert at the DECC. The costumes are ingenious and the Northland kids are adorable. When something happens spontaneously, it’s far more amusing than anything that could be scripted or rehearsed.

John Ziegler has worked in the music industry for 35 years as a radio host, interviewer, professional musician, record producer and guitar teacher. He reviews music for the News Tribune.
- Duluth News Tribune

"Stunning virtuosity moved audience to tears"

Yang Ying gave a solo performance at the Opening Celebration that moved tears across the audience. It was a mesmerizing moment, stunning in virtuosity and beautifully vivid in emotional connection. - Lisa Vogel, Promoter, MI Womyns Festival


Blurring Boundaries - Erhu Excursions, 2005. Contemporary world fusion, traditional Chinese, & jazz covers with virtuostic erhu lead.

Elixir, Music for Moving and Still Meditation, 2003. Composed around "the five notes" (i.e., the pentatonic scale) and making use of both traditional Chinese instruments and modern synthesizers, Elixir is a mixture of traditional and contemporary Chinese music with beautiful melodies that may used as an accompaniment to your moving or still meditation practice or simply enjoyed for the beauty of the music.



A student of her father, Ms. Yang Ying began the study of the erhu at the age of five. By thirteen, she was performing solo concerts, and by nineteen she had graduated from the Opera University of Henan, China and had begun performing for the Central Song and Dance Ensemble (Zhong Yang Ge Wu Tuan) in Beijing. At the age of twenty-five, Yang Ying won first place in a national erhu competition, clearly distinguishing herself as one of the foremost erhu players in China.

The Central Song & Dance Ensemble is the premier traditional musical and dance troupe in China, and from 1978-1996 Ms. Yang Ying was the featured solo instrumentalist. As the featured soloist, Yang Ying routinely traveled throughout Asia performing for Heads of State (including three American Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter). During her tenure, she also frequently recorded for the film and record industry in China. In 1996, Ms. Yang Ying's accomplishments were recognized by her inclusion in the Chinese government's publication of Famous Persons of China.

Improvisation is an important aspect of traditional Chinese music, and Ying is gifted improviser who enjoys joining in improvisational sessions of any style of music. She is also interested in a fusion of Western and Eastern music. Ms. Yang Ying was the founder, bass player, and singer for Cobra, the first all female rock band in China. Cobra had achieved international recognition, and was one of seven bands to play at the largest rock concert ever held in Beijing. Ying founded this band soon after Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, at considerable risk to her position with the Chinese National Song and Dance Ensemble.

Current Music

Reflective of her background as a traditionally trained Chinese musician and her immersion in all forms of Western music since her arrival in America in the late 1990s, Ying’s most recent CD BLURRING BOUNDARIES/ERHU EXCURSIONS combines her arrangements of traditional signature pieces for the erhu, a cover of a classic American jazz tune (Thelonius Monk's 'Round Midnight), and her own compositions that are a fusion of various styles of Chinese music with western classical, jazz, funk, rock, and Nashville influences. If you’re looking for music constrained in style and presentation and therefore easily categorizable, this CD probably isn’t for you. The traditional pieces inform Western audiences of the flavor of Chinese music, and jazz lovers everywhere will appreciate the beautiful and soulful lead of the erhu on ‘Round Midnight. Ying’s own music, a fusion of Asian and Western influences, may be described as a soulful cross between an Asian version of Itzhak Perlman (virtuostic stringed play) and Jean Luc Ponty (jazz and rock influenced innovative compositions for stringed instrument lead), and Bela Fleck (innovative funk and jazz fusion with traditional (bluegrass) music). As a former bass player Ying likes to bring the bass out front, also somewhat similar in style to Bela Fleck. Her improvised compositions, owing perhaps to her familiarity with various Chinese ethnic music styles, sometimes naturally flow in time signatures other than the standard 4/4 time which dominates Western pop music.

One of Ying’s most outstanding talents is live performance. Ying is a seasoned virtuoso with a commanding stage presence. Ying’s music and performances appeal to audiences across cultures and generations, and she has recently performed in venues as varied as Chicago nightclubs with younger audiences to concert halls with a decidedly more “mature” audience.

Ying is also a longtime practitioner of qigong, which are relaxing, meditative exercises that date to the middle of the first millennium BC in China. Her first CD produced in America, ELIXIR - MUSIC FOR MOVING AND STILL MEDITATION , contains all original compositions of relaxing, meditation music with beautiful erhu melodies.