Dutch invasion

Music | JAZZNICITY Nov 17, 2006

Dutch invasion

by Michael Pronko

Jazz has established many homes outside its country of birth, and recently musicians and fans in these widely dispersed countries have begun interacting far from jazz's Mecca of New York City. The scenes in Holland and Japan -- long two of the most thriving ...

Big-band education

Music | JAZZNICITY Sep 15, 2006

Big-band education

by Michael Pronko

On the sidewalk, in the parking lot and on the entrance stairs outside Fuchu Mori Art Theater Hall in western Tokyo last month, throngs of university students were fingering melody lines in the air, scrunching their faces trying to remember chord changes and counting ...

Hot slabs of jazz

Music | JAZZNICITY Aug 25, 2006

Hot slabs of jazz

by Michael Pronko

While summer rock festivals are as numerous as fireworks, outdoor jazz concerts have recently become as rare as a non-humid day. Just five years ago, Japan had so many jazz festivals all over the country that musicians had trouble making the tightly scheduled gigs. ...

Playing to projected light

Music | JAZZNICITY Jun 30, 2006

Playing to projected light

by Michael Pronko

A member of Sun Ra's Arkestra from 1958, Marshall Allen was there at the inception of the avant-garde jazz scene in the 1960s. Sun Ra, who died in 1993 -- or was transported to another planet, as the eccentric artist always insisted would happen ...

Keeping the Hot Club flame lit in Tokyo

Music | JAZZNICITY Sep 23, 2005

Keeping the Hot Club flame lit in Tokyo

by Michael Pronko

One of Europe's biggest contributions to jazz, Gypsy swing jazz -- now more correctly called "jazz manouche" -- comes down to one man, famed Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt. Together with violinist Stephane Grappelli and a rotating ensemble of musicians, Django's Quintette du Hot Club ...

Music | JAZZNICITY Jun 19, 2005

Only one way to get that big band sound

by Michael Pronko

Forming a jazz big band in this day and age is a somewhat insane undertaking. Scheduling the right musicians, writing elaborate arrangements and hiring a studio with the right equipment to record 16 players at once are headaches big enough to hold back even ...

Swing is the thing for bassist Nakamura

Music | JAZZNICITY Mar 27, 2005

Swing is the thing for bassist Nakamura

by Michael Pronko

Not many Japanese jazz musicians have played in front of a President of the United States, but Kengo Nakamura is one. After leaving his hometown of Osaka to study at Boston's esteemed Berklee College of Music in 1988, where he switched from electric to ...

The power of one note

Music | JAZZNICITY Nov 28, 2004

The power of one note

by Michael Pronko

Power and imagination have been Kazumi Watanabe's mainstays for over 30 years. As a prodigy on electric guitar, his first release was in 1971 at the age of 18 and his ever-evolving guitar technique has served as the central pillar of near-annual releases. In ...

Pursuing a degree in bop and beyond

Music | JAZZNICITY Aug 1, 2004

Pursuing a degree in bop and beyond

by Michael Pronko

Senzoku University is different from other universities in Japan. Huge black cases jam the hallways; five parallel lines are etched onto the whiteboards; lecterns hold stereo systems; and many classrooms are empty but for a few metal stands or the occasional grand piano. It's ...

Candela rise above definitions of East and West

Music | JAZZNICITY Jul 18, 2004

Candela rise above definitions of East and West

by Michael Pronko

Japanese culture is famed for importing artistic forms and converting them to new patterns, but one local group of foreign musicians is trying to reverse that trend. Candela, a group of four American musicians with diverse musical backgrounds, creates jazz-based music with Japanese melodies; ...

A voice like none other

Music | JAZZNICITY Jun 6, 2004

A voice like none other

by Michael Pronko

Though many postmodern jazz musicians are tireless experimentalists, they often end up producing interesting concepts more than good music. Pianist, composer and band leader Hiroshi Minami, however, is that rare jazz musician who sets up intriguing musical challenges that feel natural. He plays an ...