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Bebop Spoken There

George "Big Nick" Nicholas: "This band [George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet] is a bitch on roller skates, baby. They'll run you over if you ain't ready" (JazzTimes April, 2022)

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

'606' Club: "A toast to Lance Liddle of the terrific jazz blog 'Bebop Spoken Here'"

The Strictly Smokin' Big Band included Be Bop Spoken Here (sic) in their 5 Favourite Jazz Blogs.
Ann Braithwaite (Braithwaite & Katz Communications) You’re the BEST! --

Postage

14250 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 14 years ago. 469 of them this year alone and, so far, 69 this month (May 19).

From This Moment On ...

May.

Wed 25: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 25: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 25: Four @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm.
Wed 25: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Thu 26: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, North Tyneside. 1:00pm.
Thu 26: Deep Pope + Garner & Pope @ Cobalt Studios, Newcastle. 7:00pm. £7.00.
Thu 26: 58 Jazz Collective @ Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool. 7:30pm.
Thu 26: Knats @ Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Thu 26: Jeremy McMurray & the Pocket Orchestra @ Arc, Stockton. 8:00pm.
Thu 26: Maine Street Jazzmen @ Sunniside Social Club, Gateshead. 8:30pm.
Thu 26: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.

Fri 27: Alice Grace Quartet @ The Gala, Durham. 1:00pm.
Fri 27: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 27: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm.
Fri 27: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.
Fri 27: Fergus McCreadie Trio @ The Witham, Barnard Castle. 7:30pm.

Sat 28: Whitley Bay Carnival: Northern Monkey Brass Band (1:00-1:45pm & 4:00-4:45pm); Baghdaddies (2:00-2:45pm & 5:00-5:45pm) @ Spanish City Plaza Arena, Whitley Bay. Northern Monkey Brass Band (2:30-2:45pm) @ Rainbow Corner (Marine Ave.), Whitley Bay.
Sat 28: Jack Logan & the Swing Section @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Sun 29 Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ Spanish City, Whitley Bay. 12 noon.
Sun 29: Musicians Unlimited @ Hartlepool United Supporters’ Club, Hartlepool. 1:00pm.
Sun 29: Foundry Jazz Ensemble @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm.
Sun 29: Groovetrain @ Tyne Bar, Newcastle. 4:00pm. Free.
Sun 29: Zoë Gilby Quartet @ Allendale Village Hall, Northumberland. 7:30pm.
Sun 29: Two of a Mind: Sue Ferris-Steve Summers Quartet @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm. £10.00 adv., £12.00. door.
Sun 29: Cedric Burnside @ Cluny, Newcastle. Superb Mississippi hill country blues!

Mon 30: Jazz in the Afternoon @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tue 31: Jam session @ Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. House trio: Stu Collingwood, Paul Grainger, Rob Walker.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Book Review: Jazz Journeys to Japan, The Heart Within by William Minor

I first came across Japanese Jazz - nowadays known as J Jazz - at the start of the eighties when it became something of a hype on the jazz-funk scene which was descending into smooth jazz.

I’d already become sceptical about jazz-funk as I began exploring Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Miles and Bird, but others were paying big prices for records by Japanese musicians , generally backed by top Americans, which seemed entirely lightweight and disposable, but with undeniably high sound quality for the times.

The only record I remember is Hunt up Wind and the only artist names I remember are the musicians who made it: trombonist Hiroshi Fukumaru and featuring saxophonist Sadao Watanabe. Sadao is known by jazz listeners throughout the world as one of the legends of J Jazz, who’s been recording for almost sixty years, but Hiroshi doesn’t even get so much as a mention in the book. 

At the time I hated Hunt up Wind like the rest, but I’ve gradually come round to it and have thought for some time I should re-evaluate Japanese Jazz, but I knew I’d need help beyond my old jazz-funk friends. I’ve found two books on the subject in English and plumped for this one for no other reason than it was the best value at the time, though I intend to read the other after an appropriate period.

While I’m not altogether sure it works as a travelogue, the book traces several trips the author made to Japan to watch live jazz in clubs and festivals and to meet musicians and record executives. On his first trip he stopped off in Hawaii for a jazz festival; a tough gig but I guess somebody had to do it. 

One of the questions posed in the book is whether J Jazz swings like American jazz, whether it’s hip or has ‘soul’ or ‘feel’, and this is the subject of the other book Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan by E Taylor Atkins. Having listened to lots of J Jazz over recent months, my own view is that, given a blindfold test, I doubt most could tell the difference - I certainly couldn’t. Some of it’s good, some of it isn’t, just like American jazz.    

There is an issue that many of the musicians wear their American influences on their sleeves, and it sometimes seems to depend on no more than which American musicians toured the country.

Amorphism by Masahiko Satoh is very reminiscent of Chick Corea, in his solo work and the jazz-rock version of Return to Forever, and both his playing and composition. However, this is far less apparent on the live album Randooga, which includes some Japanese instrumentation and is far more explosive than is common in J Jazz.   

A fine saxophonist, Sadao Watanabe’s earliest recordings seem highly derivative but, from the late seventies onwards, it’s essentially smooth jazz of the most mundane order. I’m still searching for that mid-point in his trajectory.

I learned J Jazz has a history going right back to the origins of jazz and followed all its twists and turns, through Dixie, swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, modal, free and fusion - though with an attempted ban during the war years - and fusion seems to have avoided the disdain it typically receives in this country.

Just like in the days of vinyls, CDs of Japanese Jazz can be extremely expensive, though nowadays it can be hundreds or thousands, I’ve managed to track down a lot, with more by Katsumi Watanabe (no relation), Sleepy Matsumato, Tiger Okoshi and others on their way from Japan via the disrupted postal service.

The following are both affordable and recommended:

J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz from Japan vols 1 and 2.
Spiritual Jazz vol 8: Japan.
Toshiko Akiyoshi (another legend) - Let Freedom Swing.
Terumasa Hino - Kimiko.
Koichi Matzukaze Trio - Earth Mother.
Miyasaka - Animals Garden.
Eijiro Nakagawa - Funk 55.
Junko Onishi Trio - Cruisin'. 
Makoto Ozone - Nature Boys.
Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio feat Ravi Coltrane - Canvas in Vigor. 
Steve T

William Minor: Jazz Journeys to Japan, The Heart Within. University of Michigan, 2004. ISBN: 9780472113453

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