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Aoyama Gakuin University gets jazzed up for Sunday

by Edan Corkill

Special To The Japan Times

Visitors to Tokyo’s Aoyama district on Dec. 1 are encouraged to wear their dancing shoes this weekend, as Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) once again hosts its annual Aoyama Jazz Initiative, a student-run celebration of jazz.

The event is now in its fourth year, and as always, it will feature student bands from AGU as well as those from other educational institutions.

This year the theme is “Jazz All Together,” and to demonstrate the breadth of the form’s appeal, performers will range from precocious Junior High School students to seasoned veterans.

At the young side of the spectrum is the Sasage Jazz Ensemble Orchestra, the highly regarded jazz band of the Sasage Junior High School. The group, most of the members of which had no experience of jazz prior to their arrival at the Yokohama school, has performed an astonishing 30 non-school gigs this year alone.

Many university-aged performers will be present, too, with a highlight being the appearance of the Get Jazz Orchestra, the highly acclaimed big band of the Senzoku Gakuen College of Music. The group consistently wins prizes at the established arbiter of university big bands, the annual Yamano Big Band Jazz Contest.

Long-running amateur group Yokohama Onsen Club will also perform, as will professionals such as saxophonist Kazuhiko Kondo, in a quartet, and veteran jazz singer Kimiko Ito.

Aoyama Jazz Initiative 2013 takes place at Aoyama Gakuin University Theater in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Dec. 1. Doors are set to open at 12:30 p.m. Admission is free.