Mike Price


Tokyo International Singers, conducted by Marcel L’Esperance, will present its 104th concert on July 9 at Suntory Small Hall, Akasaka, Tokyo. This “Summer Serenade 2006″ features Latin-American music. Guest artists on the program will be the Mike Price Jazz Ensemble.

Mike Price formed this quintet in Tokyo in 1993 in order to “perform original compositions and selections from the modern jazz repertoire.”

Originally from Chicago and the son of a pilot, he is a versatile, imaginative musician who discovered the trumpet when he was in fifth grade. Thereafter, throughout school days in Indiana, “nobody had to tell me to practice,” he said.

He took his bachelor’s degree in music education from Northwestern University, Illinois, and had a year of post-graduate studies. His continuing private study with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra spread over five years. Additionally he studied composition at the Berklee College of Music, Boston, and for his three years there held a teaching assistantship. Later at the University of Southern California he became a teaching assistant in the graduate program of the Jazz Studies Department, and graduated with a master’s degree in jazz studies.

Mike built a career that is exciting and varied. In the summer of 1964 he went on a European tour with the Glenn Miller Singers. In 1967 he played first trumpet with the famed Stan Kenton Orchestra in venues that included television and recordings. From that year he joined orchestras that took him on more tours.

As first trumpet with the Buddy Rich Orchestra, he played in concerts, on television, and made recordings in the U.S. and Canada. On a tour of England, the orchestra was one chosen to give a performance for a charity under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II, and perhaps in her presence. Mike regards this as a command performance.

Mike continued with freelance work and composition. 1973 provided him with his introduction to Japan. He joined the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band at its founding and toured Japan six times and Europe four times, recording 13 albums.

He was inspired to study Japanese and to take a course in Japanese music at the University of California Department of Ethnomusicology.

In 1989 he was awarded an artist exchange fellowship to Japan from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission. Within a year he was playing solo trumpet in Japan with the acclaimed Nobuo Hara and the Sharps and Flats, an enduring band with which he stays associated.

Subsequently, with the addition of three Japanese indigenous instruments he formed an expanded ensemble. This ensemble developed its concerts around the theme of Japanese ghost stories. Mike received commissions to compose pieces featuring the shakuhachi, the traditional bamboo flute, “giving a distinct Asian flavor, the kind of development I thought might happen,” he said.

During the last decade he has been indefatigable. He has a repertoire of more than 125 arrangements, allowing him flexibility when he considers his audiences. As associate producer he was featured performer in a documentary film, “Tokyo Blues,” which highlighted jazz and blues musicians, many of them non-Japanese, on the Tokyo scene. Several years earlier he had composed the music for a documentary film, “Title One,” which was sponsored by the California Department of Education. In 2001 he went with the Urbie Green group Jazz Giants to Bangkok.

There he gave a special performance with the king of Thailand, well known as an advanced musician who at one time, before turning to the saxophone, wanted to play the trumpet.

As well as his quintet, Mike formed a jazz orchestra that gives big band performances. It participates in Jazz Appreciation Month, organized by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. He is ambitious for more. “I would like to diversify,” he said. “Jazz, a musical tradition that had its beginnings in New Orleans, has flowered into many complementary traditions and is still evolving. Its development has taken many avenues since its inception. That it is performed in lands distant from its birthplace is only more evidence of the growing global appreciation of this unique art form.”