Jul 23, 2010

The Japan Times Praises Hikashu

Today's the Japan Times carries an interesting article entitled "Hikashu to take 'pataphysics to Fuji Rock". It's also available online. See here.

In it, Makigami talked about their intention to the Fuji Rock performance. Avoid if you do not like being exposed to any kind of "spoiler".

"They are bound to amaze at the 2010 Fuji Rock"

Yes, indeed.

Jul 15, 2010

Makigami Koichi live with Sengawa-related musicians

In late July, Makigami Koichi will perform with the musicians who appeared at Jazz Art Sengawa this year. For both the groups, this is to be the first performance.

July 25, 2010 (Sunday)
Makigami Koichi (voice, cornet), Kaneko Yasuko (trombone), Tonchi (steel pan)
Jazz Bar Lady Jane
Setagaya, Tokyo
start 19:30
music charge - 2,700 yen
Jady Jane Live Schedule (Japanese)

At Jazz Art Sengawa 2010, Kaneko performed as a member of a brass duo called Yamaneko San. Tonchi is a steel pan player who has studied the instrument in its birthplace, Trinidad. She has a MySpace account (here) where you could listen to some of her recordings. There is something with her non-verbal singing.

Jady Jane is a jazz bar with long history. It established in 1975 and started to offer live music in 1979. They have three policies for booking music: something new, experimental, and unfinished. It reflects well in their live schedule. Also the pub is famous for the actor, the late Matsuda Yusaku (wikipedia) being a frequent customer.

Jazz Bar Lady Jane

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July 27, 2010 (Tuesday)
Makigami Koichi (voice, cornet), Tamura Natsuki (trumpet), Fujii Satoko (piano)
Jazz Spot Dolphy
Sakuragicho, Yokohama
start 19:30
advance 2,700 yen, at door 3,000 yen
Jazz Spot Dolphy site (Japanese)

At Jazz Art Sengawa 2010, Fujii performed with her own orchestra which has Tamura as its member. Fujii has been active in Japanese jazz scene as a pianist and band leader for years. Also she used to study in New England Conservatory under the pianist Paul Bley. Tamura is a trumpeter who has also a prolific career in jazz. The website of Tamura and Fujii has fully English contents so just take a look at here.

Dolphy is established in 1990 and offers mainstream jazz. Occasionally the club ventures adventurous booking. For example, Makigamisantachi once performed at this place in 2005.

Jazz Spot Dolphy

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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

Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Day Two

It was a typical day in summer. The weather was sunny and it was great for Club Jazz Byobu. During the daytime, a lot of children hang around the byobu and all enjoyed themselves with it.

Free Session for Improvisation, moderated by Makigami Koichi

At first, I was surprised the venue was pretty crowded. Compared to the past two years, the number of the musicians and the size of the audience were exponentially grew. It was a good sign. Apparently the event became more popular than ever.

At the same time, it also means that the moderator has to have some burdens. Indeed, there were some moments of difficulties but Makigami handled the situations properly. Each performance was for about five minutes and between them, Makigami added comment. He also frequently talked to the audience and tried to keep the atmosphere favorable. It was appropriate and very encouraging indeed.

And I hasten to add there were brightful moments, of course. Besides amateur improvisers, there are some professional musicians participated and it gave some positive effect to the scene.

Samm Bennett

He did a short but nice set with handmade instruments. Having witnessed his solo performance in the past, I was looking forward to the set very much (First I recognized him as a proficient percussionist, so I was somewhat surprised to know his singing so good). And he responded to my expectations by singing magnificiently a number of the Americana songs he penned. He had a style and his singing is pleasant to listen to. Go see him if there's a chance.

Sakata Akira

Besides playing his instruments profusely, the veteran saxophonist rang bells, made hollers and rocked the house pretty hard.

Yagi Michiyo (12 and 16 strings koto) and Jim O'Rourke (guitar) were mostly to reserve themselves in supportive role but Pika (drums) was not. She even occasionally came to the front and sang proficiently. With two extended pieces of ferocious improvisation, they hit the audience to the core and at the end of the performance there was a huge applause.


Unfortunately, as I rushed to the venue, the set was about to end. The voice-piano-drums trio was basically doing improvisation but the last number was a composition. It was a ballad, and the vocalist Saga Yuki sang about the stars and the skies. Solemn, impressive, and a nice treat to close a long day of the music instinct with life.

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

Jul 14, 2010

Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Day One

It was extraordinarily three days. The followings are my sentiments over some of the performances I have attended.

Fujiwara Kiyoto and Komatsu Reiko

Fujirawa played splendidly on this set. His double bass sounded so warm and full. I cannot help but immersed myself into the sound. And his partner, the percussionist Komatsu, brought an exotic instrument.

On the bandstand, there was a huge metal frame, hanging dozens of black stone. The instrument were called Sanukite (or Sanukitophone), a sort of Lithophone (wikipedia). The stones are a rare kind of granitoid and famous for its beautiful sound. Indeed, the sound was unique and profound.

Tsuchitori Toshiyuki played "Sanukaito Stone Music", recorded live in 1984.

Also I found an academic paper about the instrument. You can read the PDF version of it here.

Regarding the performance, the duo showed a very interesting approach. The music was all composed and on beat but otherwise I could feel much freedom on their playing. Later on the set, Komori Keiko (reeds) and Yoshino Hiroshi (bass) joined but the music was still having never dull moments and kept its edge. I had to give up Tanaka-Yamashita-Umezu Trio but it was well worth for that. Definitively, this set was one of the highlights of this year's festival.

Luzazul featuring Komatsu Reiko played "Pavane pour une infante défunte" per Maurice Ravel on December 14, 2009.

Nanao Tavito with Makigami Koichi

It seemed that Nanao enjoyed himself talking to the audience as well as playing. He was open, talkative and easygoing youngster who talked about the subjects like music, his life, up and down of being artist. Being solo, he could sing and talk as much as he would like to.

His new album "Billion Voices" was just released so I assume he mainly played tunes from the album. But it was not. Instead, he played a lot of other people's tunes, like Elton John's "Your Song" and Lou Reed's "Walking on the Wild Side" with Japanese lyrics. His guitar play was economical, sometimes even skeletical, but never lost the feel. Contrary to that, the words are abundant; His adapted lyrics are respectful to the originals and added with his own expression as well.

In midst of the 1st set, Makigami arrived. Soon the two embarked themselves in an improvisation of voices. Makigami occasionally played cornet and Nanao used sampler sometimes but basically, it was all non-verbal voice duo. It was wonderful. I was thrilled to see them spelling out mystical voices each other and apparently they enjoyed themselves doing that. After playing 20 minutes, Makigami left with the audience cheered.

It was well into the 2nd set. All of a sudden, Nanao put down his guitar, and got down to the floor; he became invisible from the audience. Then he started to tell a tale.

It was a story about the beginning of house music and its creators. Most originators of the music was gay people, who had so much emotion of joy and sorrow in their life. For them, clubs were the sactuary and dancing to the music was a way to take away the blues of grim realities.

Sans any accompaniment, occasionally teasing with the audience, Nanao told the tale using voices of various tones through an alteration filter for about 20 minutes. It was humorous, and sad story.

After that, he took his guitar again and launched "If you want to be a rock star," a tune from the new album. It is a story of a man who aspires to be a rock musician. He quitted day job, abandoned his family and went somewhere else to pursue his dream. There was no mention what became of him.

It was the last number of the night. The time was running out and I have to leave. I felt tired but it was pleasant.

Related Entries:
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Additional Concerts
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010
Jazz Art Sengawa

Jul 3, 2010

Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Jazz Byobu Renovated and Art Parade

Club Jazz Byobu renovated

Club Jazz Byobu is a removable concert space, operated only for the festival and being proudly self-described "the world's smallest live venue". Consisted of four walls (which can be folded or opened) with wheels, it is specifically designed and built based upon Makigami's idea. According to him, its aim is to provide an "intimate musical experience" for the audience ("intimacy" is the theme of the festival). He also said that, being placed outdoor in daytime, it works like street theatre of Terayama Shuji (wikipedia), one of the most influencial playwriter in post-WWII Japan.

I myself experienced it several times. The space is very small and could accomodate about 5 persons. The audience is to be literally vis-à-vis with performer. For myself, felt somewhat a little awkward first but it grew gradually something else. Maybe tension or seriousness. Because once the music started, you cannot do nothing but face to the performer. So naturally I concentrated to it. It must have influence over the performer's side, too. I don't remember what I felt then exactly, but what I can tell with certainty is that it was a very unusual experience for listening to music.

Samm Bennett playing in the Byobu at the unveiling, showcase event, near the Sengawa station, July 2008. Mr. Bennett is going to play for Jazz Art Sengawa again this year. Also there is a very interesting interview of him in 2007 - see here.

And this year the byobu is completely re-designed and rebuilt.


and Now

The new one is painted white, and its inside is now mirrored entirely. So it must be more perplexing, and exciting.

Though there is a moderator, the byobu takes a guerilla approach. Both its place and the performer are always in flux. So if you spot the thing, just try it. It surely gives you an unusual and very memorable experience.

Art Parade

As an opener, there is a parade of the festival staff and others. It is called "Art Parade" and marching through the main district of the Sengawa town. The participants wear a hand-made hat like this:

The parade will start about 16:00 of the first day. Although there is no announcement where it starts but it will probably be the front square of Sengawa station (wikipedia), as the former two years were. They are also going to do some performances, probably voice related, so come and see it.

Sengawa Station

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Jazz Art Sengawa 2009 Digest Clip. Hikashu (with guest Umezu Kazutoki) appeared briefly at 4:35.

Related Entries:
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010: Additional Concerts
Jazz Art Sengawa 2010
Jazz Art Sengawa

Jul 1, 2010

The Hikashu's Merchandise

At concert, there is usually a counter selling CDs and various goods where you could buy some souvenirs. Hikashu is no exception. Along with CDs, they have prepared some official goods for fans and selling them at concert.

Right now Hikashu has T-shirts and cotton bag which have the band's name on it for sale. Size and availability vary and always are in change so consult the counter staff if you have any questions, in Japanese or plain English.

Hikashu T-Shirt - 3,000 yen
Color: Black, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Green, Light Blue
Lettering: Silver or Gold (Some colors have only silver lettering)
Size: XXL, XL, L, M, S, XS

Hikashu Bag - 2,500 yen
Size: slightly larger than A4 (wikipedia entry about paper size - here)
Variation: Black with gold lettering, or Cotton white with red lettering

All the profits go directly to Hikashu so buy them all and support the band.