Japanese Jazz Kissa and the Art of the Piano Trio: Exit to Vintage Avenue



Just about every now and then, a listening session turns into something extra. You get rid of on your own for a several minutes, or for a whole document aspect. You engage with the new music. You float and drift among the notes and devices. Time stops. Transcendent. This is what it’s all about. A greater high-quality audio procedure normally takes this to one more degree, and my 1st practical experience in a jazz kissa in Japan adjusted all the things for me.

The transcendent working experience doesn’t happen all the time, but happened a few evenings ago listening to Billy Taylor and his trio on the 1959 release, One for Enjoyable. With Earl May on bass and Kenny Dennis on drums driving the rhythm on a restricted and soulful outing. Ideal. It designed me begin to assume about the piano trio sub-style of jazz, and what made me drop in love with that blend. 

Billy Taylor's One for Fun on the turntable. Dual 701, NAD 3020, Dynaco ST-70 and Klipsch KLF30.
Billy Taylor’s One for Enjoyable on the turntable. Twin 701, NAD 3020, Dynaco ST-70 and Klipsch KLF30.

Early in my jazz listening, I was drawn to the pyrotechnics of the trumpet and sax. Do not get me wrong, I nonetheless like those people devices and groupings that involve a person or both equally, but there’s a thing about the trio. The most elemental, and intimate grouping. Just piano, bass and drums. Piano typically in the guide, but a far much more democratic grouping than when the limelight-thieving brass are included. Bass and drums with much more to say in the musical dialogue, and increased soloing prospects for these oft neglected instruments.

Lee Morgan can choose the night time off. 

There are so several terrific pianists for listeners to check out some well-identified, and some flying less than the radar. A record of the significant artists really should incorporate: Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, all well-known for their work with Miles Davis, and for their individual trio perform. McCoy Tyner of John Coltrane’s popular quartet and Horace Silver of the Jazz Messengers, each leaders and creators of some of the most unforgettable tunes from the period of time. Sonny Clark, Thelonious Monk and Oscar Peterson all recognized for their supporting roles on some of jazz’s greatest albums, and for their personal projects as leaders. 

And who can ignore Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal or Duke Ellington. Bud Powell likely belongs on this list as properly. The Philadelphia-indigenous recorded some gorgeous albums above the system of his profession with Charlie Parker and others Jazz Giant is a have to pay attention if you have never ever heard it and want a significant flavor of his participating in and compositional capabilities. A quite underrated jazz pianist that you need to explore. 

Oscar Peterson's The Art of The Trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, spinning on the Dual 701.
Oscar Peterson’s The Art of The Trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, spinning on the Twin 701.

Now if you’re not a big reader, and you haven’t explored most of these artists yet, you can prevent appropriate now. Truth of the matter be told, you could establish a significant jazz assortment on just Monthly bill Evans’ and Oscar Peterson’s perform as band leaders and sidemen. But dig and take a look at a small further and wider you will learn that there are numerous other underappreciated jazz pianists to be identified. This is the place I’ve been actively playing of late, and I’ve been loving some of the fairly unidentified but stellar pianists and recordings that I have dug up.

Two incredibly distinctive activities spring-boarded my curiosity and have knowledgeable my ongoing piano trio explorations. Initially, in Might 2019, my spouse and I went to Japan for a several months to have a holiday and go to loved ones and friends. Japan is a particular place and there are areas of it – from the viewpoint of the music listener – that we truly never have here. 

A secondary mission this vacation was to check out as many Jazz kissas (jazz bars/coffee outlets) as feasible. The Japanese lifestyle puts a great deal of importance on ceremony. To have a cup of tea at a kissaten (“tea-consuming shop”) although listening to jazz has been a portion of Japanese society given that 1929, but the present day link among kissa and tea is far more tenuous. Kissa are more about coffee (which also grew to become common all through the American occupation), due to the fact coffee and jazz with each other were seen as incredibly western and exotic.

The Second Globe War had a profound impression on the jazz kissa motion listening to American jazz audio was clearly forbidden with the two international locations engaged in warfare throughout the Pacific and it experienced to stay underground during the war a long time. American jazz artists became well-liked again in Japan in the 1950s and 1960s, but pretty several people today could find the money for the costs of the information. That reality produced the jazz kissa the only area that the normal man or woman could take pleasure in the audio.

Our initially evening in Fukuoka, my wife met up with an aged pal, so I headed out for some solo checking out and occurred across a place called Jazz Bar Browny. Arriving quite early (they had just opened, and the spot was vacant), I grabbed a seat at the bar and started off chatting with the “master” (bartender and operator). He questioned if I experienced any requests, and I recommended Duke Jordan’s Flight to Jordan

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On it went. Excellent for this placing and their exceptional technique. They seriously do have a extremely distinct appreciation of new music and jazz in Japan and I very long for the day that I can working experience anything similar in Canada or the United States. It will never have the exact ambiance as the jazz kissas in Japan, but I assume we need to have them. It could possibly sound somewhat mad (and even sad) to some, but jazz listeners in Japan will shell out an entire working day and night listening to their favored jazz recordings (both equally vinyl and CDs) in a jazz kissa. It serves as an chance to socialize, drink, and love a good deal of great tunes on some excellent audio systems. 

The Japanese do not have a good deal of room. Undoubtedly not the form of area for the systems utilized in these jazz bars and espresso outlets. The jazz kissa gives an option to actually experience tunes in a special way. 

Browny's incredible sound system playing Duke Jordan's Flight to Jordan. JBLs at one end (not shown) and at the other, the bar, records, two Denon DP-1300 turntables with Shure V15iii cart's, McIntosh C30 preamp and MC2105 power amp.
Browny’s incredible sound procedure taking part in Duke Jordan’s Flight to Jordan. JBLs at just one stop (not shown) and at the other, the bar, records, two Denon DP-1300 turntables with Shure V15iii cart’s, McIntosh C30 preamp and MC2105 power amp.

Duke and his crew sounded wonderful, and at the stop of the first facet the learn questioned me for my best pianists. I stated some of the aforementioned artists. On reflection I speculate if he thought I was some ignorant westerner who examine that checklist in a stereo journal. 

His gleeful reaction designed me realize how lucky I was to be in that exclusive moment. 

“Tonight, I will educate you about my favorite jazz piano gamers!” he yelled across the bar which was beginning to get busy. 

And so started a procession of performers and records I’d by no means listened to of. Some bought performed (and have given that been added to my selection), and some only talked about, photographed and submitted away for later reference.

That night transformed audio for me. 

Billy Taylor – One for Enjoyment (1959): The album that received me started off on this posting, and that I fortunately managed to monitor down just a few months ago. Taylor was not just a amazing pianist and composer, but a jazz educator and promoter as well. Leonard Feather termed him, indisputably “the world’s foremost spokesman for jazz.” He recorded prolifically in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but much of his discography is out of print and challenging to come across, notably on vinyl. His swinging, bebop participating in is elegant, crisp, brightly playful and inventive, and assured to place a massive smile on your deal with.

Jazz Bar Browny's master introducing Billy Taylor.
Jazz Bar Browny’s learn introducing Billy Taylor.

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto – Night time and Day Live at Misty (2014): Yamamoto is a Browny beloved and performs there often. He was self-taught (as much as jazz piano is concerned). In the 1970s, he was both equally the household pianist at Misty, a Tokyo jazz club for which this album was recorded for their 30th anniversary, and recorded prolifically by the renown Japanese jazz label, Three Blind Mice. His actively playing options energetic, funky syncopation, and a dominant ideal hand. Yamamoto receives an viewers to transfer its toes. 

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's live Body and Soul, celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Jazz Bar Misty.
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto’s are living System and Soul, celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Jazz Bar Misty.

Jack Wilson – Jack Wilson Quartet that includes Roy Ayers (1963): This was Wilson’s initial album as leader, with Roy Ayers on vibes making this not a trio recording, but retaining the democratic trio truly feel. Wilson’s taking part in has been knocked for being by-product, with comparisons drawn to Bud Powell and Horace Silver, but I’m no qualified on that and genuinely get pleasure from his jaunty, bouncing, rhythmic fashion. I get predictive hints of Ryo Fukui (whom he predated) in some of his get the job done, which is undoubtedly absolutely nothing to complain about. 

Michel Sardaby – Blue Sunset (1970): Sardaby hails from the island of Martinique in the Caribbean but moved to Paris in the ‘60s wherever he began his vocation, just before settling in New York. Blue Sunset, recorded in Paris with Gilbert Rovere and Philippe Combelle, is a perfect late-night write-up-bop spin heat, sophisticated, laid-back, and infused with a touch of the blues. It is uncomplicated to imagine that you’re in some dim piano bar just before closing. I have given that uncovered a number of extra of his releases, and they share a very similar vibe, with later albums that includes far more of a Latin swing. 

Bar Browny, Suntory Royal and Michel Sardaby brought together perfectly with Denon DP-1300 turntables with Shure V15iii cart's, McIntosh C30 preamp and MC2105 power amp
Bar Browny, Suntory Royal and Michel Sardaby brought alongside one another correctly with Denon DP-1300 turntables with Shure V15iii cart’s, McIntosh C30 preamp and MC2105 ability amp

Other information pulled and not played that evening had been by Dick Morgan, Morris Nanton, Monty Alexander, Harold Mabern and Tete Montoliu. For some I have added data to the assortment, and others nevertheless attribute on the Discogs want checklist, to be explored at a later on day.

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My next “trio experience” – additional extended – took put on our return to Canada in June. With curiosity aroused, I looked additional into Japanese jazz artists and pianists in specific. This brought me back again whole circle to my 1st brushes with jazz 25+ a long time previously. More than and more than, I came across Ryo Fukui, the godfather of Japanese jazz piano (or at the very least the most famous jazz pianist outdoors Japan). I purchased a copy of Scenery, his 1976 debut, and from the protect graphic and even further studying about his origins, connected the dots to my time living in Sapporo in the early ‘90s and listening to him enjoy dwell on Wednesday evenings.

Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron, with Ryo Fukui's Scenery in the background.
Barry Harris Performs Tadd Dameron, with Ryo Fukui’s Surroundings in the qualifications.

Pursuing the breadcrumbs and looking at more about Fukui, led me to Barry Harris, an additional performer-educator cited as just one of his largest influences and ideal good friends. He wasn’t a performer that I was familiar with, but I shortly recognized that I required to learn extra about him as he’d accompanied the likes of Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Thad Jones and Lee Morgan on some of my favourite documents. Preminado and The Past Time I Observed Paris soon joined the rising piano trio selection of albums at home. 

Barry Harris' Preminado with NAD 3020, Dynaco ST-70 and Dual 701.
Barry Harris’ Preminado with NAD 3020, Dynaco ST-70 and Twin 701.

Further investigation of Japanese jazz piano stars brought Toshiko Akiyoshi to my consideration, found participating in in Ginza by a touring Oscar Peterson in 1953. He introduced her to the attention of Verve’s Norman Granz, and off she went into the entire world of well known jazz artists. 

Akiyoshi was effectively recognized in the United States in the ‘50s and ‘60s for her little ensemble perform (as chief and with initial spouse, Charlie Mariano), and in the ‘70s for her huge band do the job with 2nd husband, Lew Tabackin. What helps make her work unique is the inclusion of Japanese melodies and themes (and at times instruments), although normally staying accurate to jazz sensibilities. Her 1978 release, Finesse, is a stunning trio recording. 

Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio's Finesse on the Yamaha YP701 turntable.
Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio’s Finesse on the Yamaha YP701 turntable.

And so for me the jazz piano journey continues, with diversions and further more discoveries to be produced (if you have strategies, information me at @audioloveyyc). I know I’ve skipped a slew of other wonderful pianists listed here, including Tommy Flanagan, Horace Parlan, Duke Pearson, Kenny Drew, and a lot more. Mentioned or dismissed, all the artists showing up in this posting are worthy of a hear. A return to Japan to get pleasure from music at my preferred jazz kissa is very long overdue.

Billy Taylor’s Interlude, purchased on Discogs just days ago. Currently in transit, somewhere between Paris and Calgary.
Billy Taylor’s Interlude, acquired on Discogs just times back. Presently in transit, somewhere involving Paris and Calgary.

I hope I have sparked some desire listed here in a prosperous and pleasant jazz type. If I have, you are in for a authentic treat as you perform your way through some of these artists. And if you are experience overcome pondering where by to begin, blindfold oneself and toss darts you just cannot go completely wrong.

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