Jul 15, 2010

Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Day Three and Afterthought

On the last day, the weather turned sour. Sometimes it rained heavily. The byobu had to retreat inside the theatre but there were still bright moments on it.

Yamaneko San

The brass duo of two female musicians took an unique approach for the set. Priorly they prepared the notes which have short motif of music. In performance, they would take a note and read it. Then they are to play the motif as a starting point and based on it they develop an improvisation.

All the pieces are in mid tempo, swingy and even sounded like pastorale. Affected with their personalities, there was an atmosphere of tenderness and intimacy. Overall, everything was well suited and appropriate to the festival.

Ito Atsuhiro

The subject of Jazz Art Sengawa was not limited to musician. As being evident in this year's program, it includes poets, dancers and performing artists like Ito Atsuhiro (profile). He uses fluorescent light and makes a series of interesting sounds. As he started to perform, the light flashed profusely and the sounds like thunder vibrated the air. It was quite an experience and wanted to be there longer if possible. But unfortunately I had to bail out in the midst of the performance due to the scheduling. Maybe next time.

Ito Atsuhiro with Shin Yoichiro on drums, Sony Walkman advertisement


The rhythm section of the group was on bandstand and had already started improvising when the gate was opened. As the audience got seated, Mita and Makigami appeared and the band went into a brand new song called "Ashita Ni Kaketa" ("Take a Chance on Tomorrow"). The uplifting number was premiered live in last May, at Star Pine's Café, and since then featured as a concert opener.

This time they were allowed only 40 minutes so everything had to be quick. It seemed that the set list was preconcerted and actually there was no lengthy improvisation between compositions. But that was not problem at all. They performed a series of the uptempo numbers mainly and there was no feeling to be something shortened or hastened.

They also did not forget to communicate with the audience. Makigami, the producer of the event, asked support for the festival. The audience responded them with warm applause.

The highlight of the set was Digital Frankenstein. In general, songs grow and evolve themselves upon repetive performance, and the number is a fine example. Usually the interplay of the rhythm section on this doom-ish song was full of dynamics but the day it was truly on astonishing level.

Overall it was a short but satisfying performance. They are always above my expectations.

John Zorn's Cobra, Otomo Yoshihide Unit

Finally came the grand finale. Cobra (wikipedia) is a game piece invented by the composer John Zorn and it regularly featured as the last repertoire of Jazz Art Sengawa.

It was Otomo who cast the musicians and the personnel was pretty interesting indeed. Besides the musicians from jazz and improvisation genre, There were people like Suneohair (vocal and guitar) and Yakushimaru Etsuko (voice) from pop field, Aya (electric bass guitar) and OLAibi (drums) from a band called OOIOO. Ishikawa Ko (profile) is a renowned player of sho (wikipedia), an 8th century wind instrument of traditional Japanese music.

As a prompter, Otomo conducted a piece at each set, but basically he concentrated on overseeing the ensemble while playing a percussion and occasionally guitar. Most of the time Makigami played the prompter. As always, he did it splendidly. It is no suprises because he knew a lot of the piece. Moreover, he has been one of the most ardent supporter of it for years and is the one who kept the torch alive in Japan, as an organizer and a prompter, at the expense of great effort. In fact, he is the only authorized prompter of Cobra, approved by John Zorn himself.

For the performer's side, Suneohair and Yakushimaru occasionally threw humorous remarks (which Makigami quickly reacted and developed) and got applauded. Also the notables are Aya and OLAibi who have been to the point thoughout the sets. Cellist (and one of the producers of the festival) Sakamoto Hiromichi took extraordinary actions, which are his trademark, and contributed to create a festive atmosphere in the room. All in all, the performance was success and so appropriate for closure.


This year I came to realize that Jazz Art Sengawa works well as a grand showcase of artists. One can argue that the same thing was applied for any music event in general, but in the case of Jazz Art Sengawa, the crowd are different and exceptional. To a degree, they are eclectic; a kind of people having a vast interest in various genres - not only mainstream jazz but rock, avant-pop, traditional music and free improvisation. Even it doesn't limit to music; it incorporates other field like modern poetry or contemporary dance. As far as I know, in the country, there is no other festival like Sengawa. And that also means that by appearing in Jazz Art Sengawa, performer would get an exposure to such people. From the standpoint of artist, it is of great merit.

Anyway, from the look of things, it seems that the festival of this year has already stirred strong interest among concert-goers in general. That means it is no longer for a few connoisseurs and the competition for the tickets is going to be more fierce in future. All the more reason it is advisable to get in quick next time.

In sum, it was quite a wonderful event and I really enjoyed myself being there. All kudos to Jazz Art Sengawa.

Things were getting weirder and weirder in the evening of the last day... Musicians, including the members of Fujii Satoko Orchestra Tokyo, were improvising inside and around the byobu. Shimizu Kazuto and Mita Freeman from Hikashu were also present. Shimizu was on bass clarinet and Mita "played" Mawari Shogi, a traditional board game of Japan (a brief description is here). For over 30 years, Mita has been pursuing the game and eventually have developed some philosophies of it.

Metropolis, an English free magazine based in Tokyo, has an article about the festival (here). It will be gone after a while so save it if needed.

Related Entries:
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Jazz Byobu Renovated and Art Parade
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010
Jazz Art Sengawa

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