Coco Zhao is recognized as one of China's most creative voices, with a poetic and expressive singing style that explores the possibilities of jazz and traditional Chinese music.
He studied classical Chinese and Western music at the Shanghai Music Conservatory whilst learning on his own about jazz through videotapes, records and friends, since no jazz education was available in China. His first career highlights were a collaboration with Betty Carter at her performance at the Shanghai International Jazz Festival (1997) and performing for President Bill Clinton and his family during their visit to the city in 1998. After some years performing regularly around China, Coco and his band, The Possicobilities were the first Chinese band to ever perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival (2006), receiving much acclaim from the world media, including the Europe One program "La Boite de Jazz." In the same year, he released his new album “Dream Situation”, a project of rearranging old Shanghai tunes into Modern Jazz and Fusion.
In 2010, Coco received a Rockefeller Foundation Asian Cultural Council Scholarship and spent six months as an artist-in-residence in New York & New Orleans, USA. During this time he studied with Jay Clayton and Theo Bleckmann and performed at the Kennedy Arts Center in Washington, introducing Chinese jazz music to an American audience. In 2016, Coco spent a three-month residency in Switzerland through Pro Helvetia, collaborating with artists including Andreas Schaerer, Sonic Calligraphy & Rosconi.
Coco has performed at jazz festivals and premier events including:
Asian Cultural Council's Autumn Serenade
Jazz à Juan in France
Elbjazz Festival in Germany
JZ Festival in China
Standard Bank Jazz Festival in South Africa
Singapore Jazz Festival
Hong Kong Jazz Festival
Copenhagen Jazz Festival
He has collaborated or featured with musicians including Sinne Eeg, Stacey Kent, Hein van der Gyn, Monique Klemann, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christina von Bülow, Jacob Christoffersen and the JZ All-Star Big Band, the premier large jazz ensemble in China, directed by Mats Homquist.
Coco has received extensive media coverage throughout his career, including on CNN, Huffington Post, San Francisco Times, Time Magazine, South China Morning Post, 60 Minutes, the award-winning ICS TV show “Culture Matters”, and his song Well Water Flower was performed by Chinese “King of Pop” Liu Huan on the show “Sing My Song”.
Based between Shanghai & Amsterdam, Coco maintains a busy performance schedule in Asia and Europe. He is currently working on his next album, a project of big band arrangements of traditional Chinese folk songs & poetry, jazz standards & original compositions.