Tonight’s performance at Big Apple in Kobe felt like a homecoming.
It was while living in Kobe in 2006-08 that I began improvising. I was encouraged by a group of musicians who gathered at Big Apple for a monthly experimental improv night. It was serendipitous. I showed up to listen, but the musicians and bar owner, Kondo-san, urged me to get up and play. I sat at the piano and did two things I’d never done before: 1) improvise solo on the piano and 2) do it in front of an audience. There was something about being anonymous in the room that gave me the nerve to set my performance anxiety aside and just play. I did it the next month, and the months that followed. Soon I began to meet and collaborate regularly with a few of the players including guitarist Shin’ichi Isohata, singer/songwriter Nozomi Miki (a.k.a. Lonesome Hope), and saxophone player Jerry Gordon. It is these musicians who have inspired me (and made it possible) to return to Japan for this tour.
Big Apple hasn’t changed in 10 years. Kondo-san is still behind the bar and the live house continues to host experimental and jazz concerts, recording sessions (I made my first recording with Shin’ichi there), and improvisation workshops. We had an intimate audience for this concert with Shin’ichi, pianist Naoyo Yakushi, and guitarist Takumi Seino. Naoyo and Shin’ichi performed some of Shin’ichi’s original music, and Takumi and I each performed solos (Takumi's guitar solo was absolutely captivating). We also played a few of my compositions including Duo 1, a new piece titled Indigo for piano and guitar, memory or ghost, and two movements from of things remembered or left behind. Takumi, Shin’ichi and I also improvised a short set before Naoyo ended the evening with a performance of my solo piano piece Floating Point. It was a very special night and so great to perform with Shin'ichi once again. I can't thank him enough for being such a strong supporter of my music and for helping to organize this tour from afar.
More about this concert can be found on Shin'ichi Isohata's blog
About the musicians:
Shin'ichi Isohata was born in 1962 in Osaka and began to play the guitar at the age of 12 years old, He soon became interested in the harmony and ad-lib of jazz music and pursued self-studies. He later studied modern jazz theory and fretless guitar technique under Tim Donahue (1982-85) and Masayuki Takayanagi (1985-91). He corrected the foundation of guitar technique in Takayanagi's private school and also learned his aesthetics and philosophy of music. Isohata was one of Takayanagi's last few students.
Isohata has lived in Hyogo since 1994. His musical activities are varied and he collaborates regularly with many wonderful musicians in Japan and abroad. His guitar music consists of images that are created from perceptions and his original theoretical structures. His music has a delicate and calm sound, clear tone, and is inspired by Japan beauty. His lifework, series "EXISTENCE" was started in 1996 and aims to share an esthetic space with artists of other fields. In 2014, he composed the soundtrack for the documentary film “Legacy of Frida Kahlo - Miyako Ishiuchi, as weaving" directed by Tadasuke Kotani.
Guitarist and composer Takumi Seino has performed and recorded with diverse acts including his own works on VOS records (Japan), Priority - Musea records (France), Next Order - LoLo Records (USA), Six North - Musea records (France), Ryo Hashizume Group - Hao records (USA), PRAED and TAKUMI SEINO - GPS Records (Japan). As an improvising musician, he has been working with many talented artists all over the world and also performs solo. His unique, colourful expression has been described as "pictorial." He has appeared on over 50 CD releases on the labels in the U.S.A., Europe and Japan.
Takumi graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1996. He was selected as a guitarist for the Berklee College of Music All Star Band and performed at the 23rd Annual IAJE International Conference in January 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. At that time, he was awarded by IAJE a Special Citation for Outstanding Musicianship. He was also named best guitarist at the YAMAHA competition in Osaka, Japan 1985.
Pianist Naoyo Yakushi graduated from the Osaka Music University (piano department) and studied chamber and solo performance at the Mozarteum Academy of Music summer course in Salzburg. She has also studied art therapy and music therapy and has become a professional therapist, while also performing regularly in concert and coaching piano. Ms. Yakushi studied the basics of jazz piano from Yoko Aoyagi. Currently, she continues to explore the representation of the human as well as musical expression through improvisation.