It used to be that the jazz life followed a relatively set pattern. Young players joined the bands of older pros, learned what they could, went on to become a leader themselves and, maybe, if they were lucky, got a recording contract. Nowadays, however, jazz players are as likely to get their education at a jazz college as on the bandstand. They are also more likely to catch the ear of an A&R rep and get signed even before their sound has fully matured.

But there are some musicians, like trumpeter Tomonao Hara, who develop in a different way. Hara played in the brass band at his Chiba high school and got into jazz in college, where he studied to be a teacher. He starting playing professionally full-time at the age of 23 and released his first CD in 1996 at the age of 30. Every year since, he’s released a solid album (backed by superb rhythm sections from both the United States and Japan), earning him respect as perhaps the most important trumpeter out of Japan since Terumasa Hino.

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