Special To The Japan Times

Tres-men are made up of percussionist Takahiro “Matzz” Matsuoka, DJ Yoshijiro Sakurai and keyboardist Yusuke Nakamura.

Your debut album came out in April, and here we are, five months later at Tokyo Jazz Festival. How did that come about?

TM: We got the offer around May. Basically, a few years back I played at the festival in Hall A with Quasimode. Since then, I’ve kept in touch with the organizers and when we put Tres-men together I sent some CDs through and asked them to have a listen. And here we are.

Tres-men is playing with a full band tonight, but you started out in clubs as a three piece. Can you tell us a bit about how the band came to be?

YS: Well, I guess it was two or three years ago now. Talking with Matzz, we were both thinking that we could maybe do something interesting together. We weren’t necessarily thinking of forming a band at that point, we just decided to play a gig. We had the idea of mixing dance music and electronica with live instrumentation to play a wide variety of music. That was basically our starting point.

Your first album features covers of some rare groove classics. Is that going to form the main part of your set tonight? Or will you also be playing some other stuff?

TM: Yes, of course we’ll be featuring tracks from the album in the set, but at the moment we’re in the process of putting our next album together, so we’ll be playing a track from that. It’s also a cover, Stanley Cowell’s “I’m Trying To Find A Way.” And we’ll be featuring a gospel choir. We’ve put more of a dance twist on it with some mellow gospel singing as well.

So what’s the next step for Tres-men?

YS: That’s a good question.

TM: As part of Quasimode, I sometimes come up with things I want to try, but that don’t really fit with what Quasimode do. Tres-men is a project in which I can explore and develop those ideas — that was part of the reason for starting it. So we don’t want to do something that’s just jazz, we want to include elements of club or dance music and make something new. And we can also invite various musicians to do guest spots and help achieve that.

For tonight’s (Friday’s) gig, you’re playing out here in the Plaza. From a musician’s point of view does playing outside feel different to playing in a small club or large concert hall?

YS: For me there’s a huge difference!

In what way?

YS: Just being out in the open for one, the fresh air and stuff.

TM: Nakamura and I are both musicians, so I guess we’re more used to it, whether a show is indoors or out in the open. He (Sakurai) on the other hand is a DJ, and is usually in a booth not up on an open stage.

YS: Of course I’m not up on stage alone, but playing on stage feels completely different to spinning records in a club.

Are there any acts you’re hoping to catch while you’re at the festival?

YS: I’d like to see (Orquestra) Buena Vista (Social Club). I’ve seen them play before, but would definitely like to see them again. They’re always fun to watch.

TM: Yeah, it would be good to see them live.

YS: Or maybe Aki Yashiro.

TJF features a wide range of music. There are club sounds, some world music sounds, and contemporary and more traditional jazz. Do you think that variety is important?

TM: Hmm, that’s something that I’ve thought about quite a lot recently. Jazz obviously covers a lot of different styles and there’s freedom to do lots of different things, which I think is great. I’ve been thinking about whether I want to be playing just jazz or not, and at the moment I want to go wider than that, to make dance music, part of which will include jazz. So from that point of view I think it’s good to have a lot of different styles here.