Jazz Across The Pacific
There is a general perception that Jazz is an American thing but little do most know that Jazz has actually been international music from the very beginning.
It was World War II that kind of opened the door of jazz across the Pacific.
As thousands of American troops were stationed in Japan, their need to listen to live music led them to hire Japanese musicians. As the army gave some stock arrangements to the musicians, they soon started to excel at it.
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It was the 50s and 60s when Japanese musicians started gaining international recognition.
Although the pioneers such as Toshiko Akiyoshi and Sadao Watanabe found it difficult at first to distinguish themselves with the American audience, yet they found it by adding particular Japanese references in their music.
So, if you are a jazz enthusiast and intrigued to know what’s the jazz scene in Japan, here are 7 Japanese Jazz artists you should definitely start listening in 2021:
Want to listen to the recommended Japanese jazz artists below? I’ve created a playlist here.
Recommended Soundtracks of TRI4TH
- Sol Levante
A band that started with five members in 2006, TRI4TH is known for its stylish technique and hard-hitting performance style. Ever since the inception of the band, they have successfully strived to set their mark on the Japanese Jazz industry.
In 2009 they showcased their talent by featuring in numerous compilation albums, including “Club Jazz Digs Lupin The 3rd” and many others. They released their first album in 2010 “TRI4TH” and went on to release their first cover album “Warabe Jazz” in 2011.
Recommended Soundtracks of Kurofune
- Honen Bushi
- La Fiesta
- La Japonaise
Kurofune is a group of immensely talented musicians who have made a name for themselves by combining traditional Shimauta music of Amani Islands and Kagoshima Prefecture and impeccably fusing it with jazz and pop.
Popularity as a Jazz Fusion Band
They have achieved success in creating a pleasurable new type of sound by integrating the traditional and modern styles of music.
The members of this highly recommended group of musicians are Toshiyuki Sasaki (drummer) from the group Nautilus, Daisuke Takeuchi (pianist) from TRI4TH, Anna Sato (a shimauta singer and shamisen player) and Tomotaka Sekiya (bassist) from TRI4TH, and Hikari Shirafuji of group Ki & Ki Tsugaru Shamisen.
3. H ZETTRIO
Recommended soundtracks of H ZETTRIO:
- Make My Day
This Japanese jazz band is known for its unique music that is derived from “non-gravity technique” of the piano. The band members are H ZETT M (piano), H ZETT NIRE (bass), and H ZETT KOU (drummer). They released their debut album in 2013 titled “★★★ (Mitsuboshi (Three Stars))” and participated at the renowned “Montreux Jazz Festival” held in Switzerland in 2014.
Their “laughing and dancing jazz” at the FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL’14 earned them a lot of praise. In 2015, they released their 11 singles and amazingly all of them ranked No.1 on the iTunes Jazz chart. They released their second album “Beautiful Flight” the same year.
Recommended soundtracks of Bohemianvoodoo:
- Lapis Lazuli
- Adria Blue
Bohemianvoodoo is an award-winning quartet that has this unique charisma to woo the listeners with their masterful jazz-pop concoctions.
The groovy and melodious jazz pop songs of the four-man band caught the attention of avid jazz listeners almost a decade ago. Since then, they have won multiple awards in Japan with their breathtaking performances.
5. Fox Capture Plan
Recommended soundtracks of Fox Capture Plan:
- Butterfly Effect
- Cross View
- Plug In Baby
Fox capture plan is a highly talented jazz rock-pop band formed in 2011 in Tokyo, Japan. This winner of the Jazz Japan Award 2013 is known for its unique style of jazz forms a harmonious sound.
Their live performance at Fiji Rock was appreciated by many Jazz fans. The members of this intriguing band are Ryo Kishimoto (piano), Hidehiro Kawai (bass), and Tsukasa Inoue (drums).
Recommended soundtracks of Jazztronik:
- The Piano
- Deja Vu
Ryota Nozaki is a Tokyo-based DJ/Producer/Pianist who started Jazztronik in 1998. Although it does not have any fixed members, it has an immense fan following. Ryota Nozaki gained worldwide fame his hit track “Samurai” in the Album “Nanairo”(2004).
Jazztronik has over 100,000+ sales and it performs to sold-out crowds in Japan. Its popularity has also increased in America and Europe.
7. Hiromi Uehara
Recommended soundtracks of Hiromi Uehara:
- Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.8 Pathetique
Hiromi Uehara (aka Hiromi) is a professional jazz composer and pianist who have gained worldwide popularity with her virtuosic technique, blend of musical genres and lively live performances.
Mentored by Ahmad Jamal (famous American Jazz pianist and composer), Hiromi was already signed with jazz label Telarc before she even graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
If you love jazz, you should definitely give a chance to listening to her – it’ll be worth your time.
The Bottom Line
Fumio Nanri, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Sadao Watanabe are inarguably the pioneers of the Jazz scene in Japan and these aforementioned artists are definitely playing their part quite nicely as well.
Make sure you do listen to these Japanese jazz artists in 2021 and only then you’ll know what you’ve been missing all these years.