Toshiko Akiyoshi, 1978. Source: wiki.
Like WAM, the recordings and tours of the great jazzers have long had a devoted following in Japan. But as American culture became in demand in the aftermath of the Japanese defeat in World War Two, many fine musicians moved from mimicry to creating their own sound. For us, knowing where they come from (or even “are coming from”…), it may be tempting to seek a Japanese aesthetic in the music, such as the concept of ma “space” (see under Takemitsu) in Noh drama, or the inevitable Zen vibe. Irrespective of all that, my little playlist below has some impressive sounds—and there’s more to explore via the J Jazz reissues.
Toshiko Akiyoshi (b.1929) is the grande-dame of Japanese jazz pianists, still going strong in her 90s. “Discovered” in 1952 by Oscar Peterson, from 1973, now based in the States, she went on to form a big band with her husband Lew Tabackin. Click here for many playlists. Here’s Kyo-shu (Nostalgia), from The Toshiko trio, 1956:
Children in the temple ground, from the album Long yellow road (1974):
Kogun, from Road time (1976):
On sax, Koichi Matsukaze: At the room 427 (live, 1975—including an imaginative version of Lover man):
and Earth mother (1978):
Also on sax, Sadao Watanabe (b.1933), Orange express (1981):
Masabumi Kikuchi (1939–2015, piano), East wind (1974):
On trumpet, Terumasa Hino (b.1942)—Love nature (1971):
and Journey into my mind (1973):
Kohsuke Mine (sax), Mine (1970):
Tohru Aizawa with his band. Source: Guardian.
The Tohru Aizawa Quartet with their album Tachibana (1975):
and Edo Gigaku (2011):
See also Hiromi—among my roundup of posts on Japanese culture. My jazz medley includes not only the Golden Age (Billie, Miles, Trane, and so on) and more recent figures, but also some great jazz from Poland (whose own vibrant post-war scene reminds me of Japan) and Ethiopia, as well as notes on Istanbul and Shanghai.