Tokyo Jazz Festival Celebrating 15th Anniversary

Tokyo International Jazz Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary, uniting artists and thousands of fans from around the world

September 23rd, 2016
Dominika Vozarova, CD News

Tokyo Jazz Festival, launched in 2002, has grown to be Japan’s largest international jazz festival and celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. The festival is held in early September at the Tokyo International Forum, in the very heart of Tokyo. Every year nearly 80,000 fans gather together to enjoy a weekend of jazz music, with over 200 artists from all over the globe performing at the festival. One of the central aims of the festival is to celebrate jazz “beyond borders, beyond generations”, and transmit new culture from Tokyo through the medium of music.

Among the heavy hitters will be pianists Makoto Ozone, Herbie Hancock and Hiromi Uehara. Ozone will front a band composed of musicians from local music colleges, along with students from the prestigious Juliard School of Music in New York.

Hancock, a regular at the festival, will lead a quartet featuring neo-soul singer, Lalah Hathaway. The extremely popular Uehara promises to provide some of the more eclectic music: for the festival she’ll be jamming with the equally unique Dominican pianist, Michel Camilo.

The Uehara-Camilo collaboration isn’t the only “East meets West” pairing. With the festival’s theme of “Beyond Borders, Beyond Generations,” there’s a healthy dose of interesting pairings throughout the event. Japan’s first true jazz export, Sadao Watanabe, joins a quartet featuring renowned trumpeter, Wallace Roney, and drummer, Jeff “Tain” Watts. Violinist, Naoko Terrai, and Argentine pianist, Pablo Ziegler, promise to provide some true romance with Terrai’s elegance and Ziegler’s sultry tango really turning up the heat. Pianist, Mayuko Katakura, is set to play together with Dutch saxophonist, Benjamin Herman.

The free, outdoor International Forum Plaza performances are a gift for cash-strapped fans, and feature less traditional music and more alternative performances.

Mighty Japanese jazz squads Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro and Tri4th should not be missed: two bands that rock, stomp and imbue their tunes with an element of gangster cool. Pakistan’s Sachal Jazz Ensemble adds tabla, sitar and a holy mountain of strings to its heady cross-cultural mix, and Myriad3 is a youthful Canadian piano trio that keeps it experimental and contemporary while staying connected with tradition.


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