Tonight was the final performance at KD Hapon in Nagoya. The horn players were unable to attend this concert because of travel expenses, so we'd be performing as a quartet. We also decided to play one set as a trio, revisiting standards we all enjoyed playing. The piano unfortunately was not very pleasant to play on, it was an old Kawai upright that was very bright and had poor action. Despite that, we had an amazing opening act for us a Japanese vocal/piano duo called "Flux & Flow". They performed some amazing original material and finished with a beautiful rendition of the standard "Bye, Bye, Blackbird". It was very inspiring. After, we performed selections of our music that Masato Shinohara felt comfortable playing, and we had a great first set. The second set was a bit more shaky, due the to sound quality being not very good, but we made it through, and the audience seemed very happy. Unfortunately, we found out after the concert that the venue charged us 8,000 yen (about $70) for use of their piano and drum set. We were totally unaware of this, and they waited till after the concert to inform us. This was very disrespectful, and definitely an exception for a music venue, most of which would never charge the musicians such an outrageous fee, but we swallowed our pride, and left without putting up any resistance. We were genuinely drained from the tour, and needed rest for the long day of traveling ahead of us to get back home. Overall, it was an amazing learning experience, we met a lot of amazing people, and a discovered more about ourselves as musicians and human beings. Thanks to everyone who helped make this cultural outreach program a success! Sayonara!
Today was the final full band performance at Anti-Knock in Tokyo featuring the master Akikazu Nakamura on shakuhachi. This was a very rock/punk joint, so we knew we would be playing music very different from the opening acts we had. We had some very energetic openers for us, from more straight forward japanese rock acts to a duo act with a female percussionist and a guitarist with lead vocals. There were about 50 people in attendance, most of which were waiting at the bar for our show to start. We didn't have time to do a soundcheck, but decided to have dinner at a nearby restaurant to go over the music. We only had about 45 min. to perform that night, so the music would be really tight because we were used to playing two or three hours. Akikazu Nakamura invited his friend, a well known videographer in the Tokyo area to come and film our set. Originally, he said that he was too busy, but after checking out one of our videos online, he decided that he needed to hear us live!
Once we took the stage, the intensity and focus was there. The crowd was cheering even before we played a tune, while we were just checking the levels. We knew that is was a good energy, and would have a great performance, but the sounds from Akikazu and the band were beyond expectations. I did not have a piano or keyboard that evening, so had to make do with the two synthesizers I brought, which forced me to be more musically creative and minimal. The songs flowed effortlessly, and the transitions from song to song were perfect! The crowd ate it up, and I believe it was unlike anything they could have imagined, after hearing so many noise-rock acts before us, it was a great contrast. Akikazu seemed to really enjoy the music, and was cheering us on from backstage as we were performing our final tune "Spilt Milk" with the rest of the band. After the concert, the audience was asking for an encore, although we didn't have time. There was a very large free-jam after our performance, which I first thought was nosey and chaotic, but after joining seemed to have a very primal vibe to it. I wouldn't call it listenable, but it was a unique experience hearing raw, unfiltered Japanese expression in that way, about 20 musicians switching instruments constantly.
After the performance, I had to return to Electrik Jinja to grab a few cable I had left, when I ran into Nikki Glaspie, the Zildjian Artist, drummer from Beyonce, who had just finished a gig at Billboard with Maceo Parker's band. She gave me some amazing advice about her experience at Berklee, and was a pleasure meeting her!
Today, we met up early with Keiko Shima at our hotel early in the morning to head to the Tokyo School of Music for an interview and performance. We were greeted by the American guitarist Chris Juergensen, who was from Los Angeles but had been teaching in Tokyo for 25 years! He had us on his talk show, Chris' Room, where he asked us about our experience becoming musicians and attending Berklee in front of a live student audience. We then discussed our plans after we left Berklee, and then had a short jam session. We played a blues, "Straight, No Chaser", and then played a couple of my compositions for the students. Overall, we had a great time, and the students were very inquisitive. We shared Berklee materials and then proceeded to tour the school, which had amazing facilities, and had hosted such artist as Michael Jackson, Marcus Miller, and Omar Hakim. After the clinic at Tokyo School of Music, we were taken to the venue we were performing at that evening, the Basement Bar.
Then, we had an amazing performance with the Berklee Alumni, and world class shakuhachi master Akikazu Nakamura. Akikazu has performed with many of the great musical artists of our time, and has travelled all over the world with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is very well known in Japan and it was an honor to have him perform with us! There were many very talented musicians that opened for us, which made for a very good turnout, and we had a lot of momentum leading up to our performance. We featured Akikazu on the first three songs, and also played his original composition titled "Magnetic Fantasy", which uses a lot of odd time signatures and goes in-between different time signatures. Despite us having only about 10 minutes to rehearse with Akikazu, the musicality was very high! The audience really focused on the sounds coming from the stage, and the intensity was very high throughout the performance! We hope to return to Basement Bar on our next trip to Japan!
After our long, late night performance at Electrik Jinja, the band really needed a day off to rest and gather strength for the rest of the tour. Myself and Juan Chiavassa went to visit the famous Senso-ji temple with some other guests at the hotel we were staying at. The temple was built around 1500 years ago, and is located in a forest about a mile away from where we were staying, so we decided to get lunch and walk over to the historic location. We were really captivated by the beautiful architecture and layout of the shrine, everything seemed to be in pristine condition although built over 1,000 years ago! It is extremely clean, and well kept, and there was so much artwork in the stones, statues, buildings, and kanji to look at, truly inspiring! Very close to the Senso-ji temple, is the Asasuka shrine, where we cleansed our hand and minds in the crystal clear, refreshing water that runs by the entrance! It was a great way to spend our day off, reflecting on our experience and recharging our batteries for the remainder of the tour ahead.
Today we had a very memorable midnight - 4:00 AM performance at Electrik Jinja in Roppongi, Tokyo! The Roppongi area is in the center of the Tokyo nightlife, and is buzzing with activity all the time! We mostly rested the day before so that we would have the energy for the performance, and did we ever! The club was packed, and the audience really responded well to our music! I was performing on a Rhodes electric piano from the late seventies, and the music was truly electric! The club owner was well connected in the music industry, and there were other musicians, Berklee students and radio DJ's in the audience to hear us perform. We had a great time, and the audience was dancing, and very enthusiastic! A well known Japanese rapper, MC T, came out to flow with us during a hip hop instrumental at the beginning of the second set, and the crowd ate it up! We will definitely be returning to this club very soon!
Today we had our first performance in Tokyo at a well known club in the middle of Tokyo called Absolute Blue. We were also trying to do a live recording session so we arrived a few hours early to try and set up the microphones and the audio interface. Unfortunately there was no sound man, so we were left to our own devices with the sound engineering. Also, while setting up my synthesizers on top of the piano, I accidentally etched a scratch into the music rack, about 1.5 inches long that just barely nicked the top layer of gloss on the music shelf. I didn't notice, but when the owner came over and brought me a towel, she saw the scratch and became very distraught. I told her that I was sorry, it was obviously an accident, and that I would repair or replace the music stand as soon as I was able, and gave her my contact information, which she already had. She was not being reasonable, and demanded first 20,00, then 10,000, then 27,000 yen (about $250) to be paid immediately! I am a piano technician, and work on pianos all day at Berklee, and knew that the repair couldn't be more than $100 dollars, and told her that I needed to see a receipt for the repair, or for the new music rack before I made such an outrageous payment. We continued to setup the microphones and test the levels, with no help from a sound engineer, while she proceeded to type up a fake invoice for 27,000 yen, which I knew was a completely arbitrary number, that had nothing to do with the cost of repair or replacement. Me and my band decided to talk about it, and I decided that I would get a proper estimate for repair and give her that amount at a convenient time. I did not have the money to pay $250 for a scratch on the music shelf, and it should be covered by insurance if she rented the piano as she had claimed. It was clear that she was just trying to get money from us, and was not concerned with the music or the piano.
Unfortunately, one of my band members went ahead and paid the amount she was demanding, out of fear, despite me telling them that it was my responsibility, and that I would pay the proper amount at a reasonable time. All of these events really stressed me out personally, and I feel that the emotions were getting into the music. After the first set I found out about what happened with the payment, and we nearly canceled the second set, but a few more guests were waiting to hear us play, and we did not want to disappoint them. We finished the second set, and packed up or stuff to leave and get dinner and discuss what happened. We sold a few CD's and spoke about Berklee programs, but the minor scratch was still hanging over my head. Overall, it was a huge learning experience for everyone in the group. We will not be returning to this club, and learned to be more wary of sketchy club owners and establishments that try to profit off the backs of musicians that play for them.
Today was a truly historic day in the tour, for myself and for everyone in the band. We travelled from the Kansai area to Tokyo in the early afternoon, which proved to be a very physically and mentally demanding task. The weather, and confusion with directions proved for a very taxing trip to Tokyo, but once we finally checked into our hotel, and set our luggage down, we prepared to witness music history at the Blue Note Tokyo.
We had caught wind that the legendary and monumentally influential pianist McCoy Tyner was performing at the Blue Note Tokyo the day that we arrived in Tokyo. McCoy of course has been at the forefront of jazz music since the early 60's playing with John Coltrane's legendary quartet, and has continued to make leaps and bounds in improvisation innovation ever since. His sidemen have gone on to be the most accomplished musicians in jazz over the last 40 years, and we were all ecstatic to catch a glimpse of the master while he is still with us on Planet Earth. Performing with McCoy Tyner was the most widely respected and sought after tenor saxophonist of his generation, the great Joe Lovano, who was an established legend in his own right. The rhythm section was nothing short of the finest musicians on the New York scene today, Francisco Mela on drums, and Gerald Cannon, both of which had garnered a reputation for being New York's all-stars of jazz.
I was very fortunate to have met and played with Joe Lovano numerous times at Berklee during the Berklee Global Jazz Institute forums, so when I reached out to him requesting a guest spot, he was prompt to respond, and got me and my bandmates in free of charge! It was an honor seeing Lovano perform with McCoy! We could tell that McCoy was tired from traveling, and at his age he was not as agile as he was in the 60's, but we were all deeply spiritually moved by his playing and by the band's reception of the master. Joe Lovano demonstrated why he is so revered and highly acclaimed, leading the band with clear direction, masterful use of space, and a deep lineage of jazz vocabulary. It was an honor to hear the rhythm section play with and without McCoy, keeping a steady swing throughout that was both accessible and challenging to the ear. True masters at work, all of them!
After the concert, we were able to go backstage and speak with Francisco Mela, Gerald Cannon, & Joe Lovano about the performance and about the musical quest in general. Joe Lovano gave Tomoki and Connor a saxophone clinic, taking out his tárogató, and explaining it's sound and mechanism to them. He also explained the autochrome, his one of a kind, duophonic double-reeded, double belled soprano with harmonic overtones. Francisco Mela spoke with Juan about how he felt with the performance, was completely honest about his feelings, which was great to hear as developing musicians. Gerald Cannon spoke with Will and I about his process studying the bass, and moving to New York to get his butt kicked before he was accepted as a musician and hired "on the spot". We briefly had the chance to meet McCoy, and I was given a very gentle handshake and "pleasure to meet you", which literally meant the world to me! Met the managers of the Blue Note, and hope to perform there with my band very soon!
Today we were scheduled to have a rhythm section clinic at Apple guitars. Apple guitars is a very famous guitar shop run by Berklee Alumni Masato Shinohara. Although it was called a rhythm section clinic, it turned into more of a jazz workshop. We had two vocalists, two pianists, a tenor saxophonist, and two bassists come to the workshop to hear feedback from us Berklee students about their playing and learn new techniques to better improve their jazz understanding. We started by performing the jazz standard "All of Me" and then listened to them play the tune directly after us. Most of them had experience performing jazz in the past, and were familiar with Berklee College of Music, so we had a lot of common ground to work with. After listening to them perform we gave each of them individually constructive criticism, certain things to work on or to be aware of when practicing and performing in this setting. After, we had them play a ballad, "Misty" with a vocalist who was familiar with the tune, which exposed more areas of improvement in the musicians that we then addressed. We discussed the importance of embellishing the melody, and then demonstrated some reharmonization techniques, and extended ending techniques that they could use with jazz ballads. The students were very enthusiastic, and had many questions about concepts they could work on and how to improve their sound. We shared with them that the most important thing is to listen to the masters of jazz, and to learn to play what they were hearing! They were curious about what it was like studying at Berklee, and we were happy to share our experience!
After our clinic at Apple guitars, we had a performance at Pine Farm in Osaka, a small jazz club owned by a jazz enthusiast. He had an old Kawai piano, and a stage Rhodes piano! We only had a couple people at this concert, so we thought of it more as a rehearsal, but the band was sounding really amazing together, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the concert!
This morning, we were picked up by Keiko Shima, the international affairs agent of Jikei COM, a very large organization in Japan that owns many of the most famous and best schools throughout Japan. We were taken to the Osaka School of Music, where we were scheduled to perform for the music students of Osaka, host a jam session, and then have a lunch party and tour of the school! The Osaka School of Music was really mesmerizing! We were very impressed by how clean, well organized, and efficient every aspect of the school was run, from the staff, to the administration, to the equipment! We were extremely impressed, and very well taken care of. We performed a few original songs for the students, answered some very thoughtful questions from the students, and then had some of the students play with us for the jam session. It was a beautiful experience, and I think were very inspired from our time there! We then shared information about our experience at Berklee, and then toured the facilities of the school, which were state of the art!
After the Osaka School of Music clinic, Keiko took us to Always Umeda Live House, where we were performing that evening. We had some free time before the soundcheck, so went to a local park to stretch and do some yoga before the show. The concert was a really great time for the band, although not too many people came to the show. We had one student from the jam session at OSM sit in with us, and Connor Steck's saxophone teacher from Koyo Conservatory came out to listen to us play! The venue had an amazing Yamaha baby grand piano, that played like a concert grand, and the sound system and lighting really put us in a great place for performance! We hope to return to Always Umeda soon for another concert in the near future!
Today we decided to visit two very famous temples in Kyoto before our performance at Koyo Conservatory's ilve house, Maiden Voyage. First we went to Sangūsangen-dō temple, where they have 1,001 golden leafed statues of the Buddhist diety, Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeon, often called "Kannon" all surrounding one gigantic seated "National Treasure" statue. In addition to these statues, their are statues of the Thunder God and Wind God on opposite sided of the entrance, and twenty eight guardian dieties which each have unique characteristics and origin and ancient Buddhism. Sangūsangen-dō temple also hosts a world famous 24-hour archery competition every year where contestants shoot over ten-thousand bows non-stop for 24 hours. It was truly fascinating to be at this temple!
Next we went to the very famous tourist location Kyomizu temple, an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto which overlooks the city of Kyoto. It is over 1,000 years old, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not a single nail was used in it's construction!
We then took a cab back to Kyoto station, and headed to Koyo Conservatory for our performance at Maiden Voyage! It was an amazing live house, with a beautiful Yamaha baby grand piano, and an excellent sound team! We were able to meet the international affairs agent of Koyo, Keisuke Okai, and he told us about his time at Berklee College of Music in the late 90's! We had a great time performing there, and hope to come back soon!
Today, we relaxed during the morning to prepare for our first performance at Environment 0g in Osaka. Opening for us was the Japanese psychedelic folk group "Imaginary Square". We arrived a few hours before the performance to set up and have a soundcheck. To my surprise, there was no piano at the venue, and the keyboard they had was not functioning properly. This did not affect our show however, because I was confident in my ability to just play two synthesizers, and luckily I could rely on Masato Shinohara to play the harmonies as well.
Imaginary Square played a wonderful set, blending elements of electronic music, traditional Japanese folk music, and psychedelic music to create a really unique landscape. They did not have a percussionist, just a bass player, an electric and nylon string guitarist both with effects and pedals, and a female vocalist with a vocal processor and effects on her vocals. They did a great job setting the mood for my group and it was a great contrast. The first show we just we on fire, because I did not have a piano, we had to play songs from all three sets that I could play just synthesizer on, and it was a great concert! We played phenomenally together, and I was genuinely impressed with how tight the music was, the rehearsals really paid off!
After the concert, we shared some information about Berklee College of Music with the younger Japanese musicians that were interested, and sold and signed some of our "To Japan!" CD's. I was a bit worried about not having piano to play, but after the show I got great feedback from the audience and the owner of the club!, They would like to have us perform there again, and next time come to Japan we will definitely be doing another show here!
On day two of our journey in Japan, we begin with a morning rehearsal at Koyo Conservatory in Kobe. We rehearsed for four hours in one of their smaller ensemble rooms, and went over some of the new music we were to prepare for Akikazu Nakamura. By this time the band was sounding really together, and we had the all of the music worked out for the performances. the setlist, the featured soloists and transitions were smooth and we were ready for our first performance the next day at [Environment 0g]. After rehearsal, we went travelled to downtown Kyoto to catch the last bit of the Gion Matsuri festival. The Gion Matsuri festival,
"The Gion Matsuri, familiarly known as 'Gion-san,' is a festival of Yasaka-jinja Shrine, and the highlight is the splendid pageant of some 20 and 10 floats called yamaboko proceeding along the main streets of Kyoto on the 17th and 24th." - (http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/festival/gion.html)
We did not arrive in time to see the floats, or the main parade, but caught a beautiful performance of Gagaku, a very ancient traditional music of Japan, to conclude the festival. We felt truly immersed in the culture of Japan!
We arrived in Japan, yesterday July 16th, and met with Tomoki Sanders and Masato Shinohara, the Japanese natives of the band. After making our way through customs and receiving our luggage, we made our way by bullet train from Narita airport in Tokyo to Osaka, where we were staying during our Kansai performances. On the 17th a typhoon hit Japan and it was pouring rain and windy throughout the day. We travelled from Osaka to Kobe, to have rehearsal at Bass On Top music studio in Kobe early in the morning, Then we visited the historic shrine "Ikuta Jinja", honoring the Goddess Wakahirume-no-Mikoto located in downtown Kobe. We had a great "cleansing" at the entrance of the shrine where we washed our hands in the, before having a brief meditation and exploring the grounds of the shrine. After, we went to Dotonbori, a famous entertainment and shopping district in Osaka where we experienced a fabulous revolving sushi plate restaurant, where plates of fresh sushi were sent on a conveyer belt and we could select what we would like to eat. After, we had a bit of sake at a local bar which had traditional sake and oden dishes to accompany them. Then we all retreated to our respective sleeping quarters to rest for the day two of rehearsal and the Gion Matsuri festival!
We would like to thank everyone who has donated to our fundraising campaign, and give a huge thanks to Berklee College of Music for sponsoring Unidentified Fusion Orangement in Japan! Please continue to support us in this trip by purchasing our EP:
Alexander Anderson - Piano/Synthesier
Connor Steck - Soprano Saxophone
Tomoki Sanders - Tenor Saxophone
Will Lyle - Electric/Upright Bass
Juan Chiavassa - Drums
Special Guests Berklee Alumni:
Masato Shinohara - Electric Guitar
Akikazu Nakamura - Shakuhachi (7/27 & 7/28 in Tokyo)
【大阪・南堀江 7月19日（日）】 Environment 0g
〒550-0015 大阪市西区南堀江3-6-1 西大阪ビルB1F
OPEN 18:00 SHOW 19:00-21:00
Charge : 1,500 yen
【神戸・六甲 7月20日（月）】 Maiden Voyage
〒657-0065 神戸市灘区宮山町3-1-23 ロータス阪急六甲ビルB1F
TEL : 078-805-0899
OPEN 18:00 SHOW 1st set 18:30-19:10 /2nd set 19:30-20:10 /3rd set 20:30-21:10
チャージ：2,000円（学生1,000円）+ 1 drink
【神戸・三宮 7月22日（水）】 ジャズワークショップ in アップルギターズ
〒650-0011 神戸市中央区下山手通3-1-18 ラムール・トアロード7階
OPEN 13:30 EVENT 14:00-15:30
無料 ※ 当日、篠原は通訳・コーディネーターをします
【大阪・吹田 7月22日（水）】 Pine Farm
〒564-0062 大阪府吹田市垂水町3-35-25 T&T B1F
OPEN 19:00 SHOW 1st 19:30- / 2nd 21:00-
【東京・池袋 7月24日（金）】 Absolute Blue
〒171-0021 東京都豊島区西池袋1-15-6 豊島会館B2F
open：19:00 start：1st 19:30-20:30 / 2nd 21:00-22:00
チャージ：3,000円 + 1 drink
【東京・六本木 7月25日（土）】 エレクトリック神社 Electrik Jinja
〒106-0032 東京都 港区六本木5-9-22第二千陽ビルB1
OPEN 19:00 SHOW 1st 24:00- / 2nd 26:00-
【東京・下北沢 7月27日（月）】 Basement Bar
〒155-0032 東京都世田谷区代沢5-18-1 カラバッシュビルB1F
OPEN 18:00 SHOW 19:00-
【東京・新宿 7月28日（火）】 Anti Knock
〒160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿4-3-15 レイフラットビルB1F
OPEN 18:00 SHOW 18:30-
【名古屋 7月29日（水）】 KD Hapon
OPEN 19:00 SHOW 19:30-
チャージ：2,000円 + 1 drink
One of the most profound teachings I learned from the time I spent with Herbie Hancock was the realization that music, is a universal language that can change the way people think, and may be the only tool that can bring about a sustainable world peace. Jazz music has a tradition of breaking down barriers, uniting people from foreign lands and initiating a healthy, positive dialogue between cultures from around the world. During my studies at Berklee College of Music, and career as a professional pianist, I have met and played with musicians from all over the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, England, Italy, Germany, Russia, Turkey, China, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Egypt, Greece, West Africa, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia, and Taiwan. Music in my life has served as a tool for connecting with people, ideas, and cultures from all over the world, and has changed my perspective to see people from all nations and backgrounds as my brothers and sisters in the human family. I am now trying to spread this understanding and awareness through the power of music with my group of international musicians, Unidentified Fusion Orangement, to Japan, which has recently undergone many traumatic disasters and has been receptive to jazz music through hosting International Jazz Day in 2014. Jazz music has been the voice of freedom since it’s creation in the early 20th century for over a million peole in the United States and around the globe. Jazz music is the perfect tool for cultural diplomacy because it values diversity, welcomes new ideas, encourages responsibility, sincerity, and fosters both inner reflection and communal interaction. It is the perfect language for uniting people from foreign lands and serving as a bridge between cultures, belief systems, and ideologies.
Beginning from July 15th 2015, I will be taking my musical group on a two week cultural outreach program to Japan to demonstrate the ability of jazz music to bring people together from around the world and have a positive impact on a foreign nation. The group will consist of Berklee students from around the world: Alexander Anderson from San Diego, California playing piano and synthesizer, Connor Steck from Portage, Wisconsin playing soprano saxophone, Tomoki Sanders from Irabaki, Japan playing tenor saxophone, Will Lyle from Orange County, California on the electric bass, and Juan Chiavassa from Santa Fe, Argentina playing percussion. We plan on conducting clinics at local music schools, perform seminars at music manufacturing companies, host jam sessions inviting local musicians, conducting musical therapy sessions at special needs facilities, and performing in concert halls and jazz clubs to promote the ideas of intercultural exchange and understanding through improvised music.
In order to fulfill the intentions of this cultural outreach program, we require appropriate funding to cover the cost of transportation, lodging, food, and promotions. Five round trip tickets from Boston to Tokyo will cost $6,000, two weeks of lodging for the five of us will cost around $2,000, and two weeks for food and other miscellaneous expenses is going to be around $2,000. This does not factor in the cost of documenting the events in the form of audio/video recordings. In total, a minimum of $10,000 must be raised to cover the bare expenses of this cultural outreach program. Any organizations, donors, or government agencies that may be able to sponsor this program are essential, and is a primary goal of ours. Any events, workshops, or receptions that we as a group can take part in to demonstrate the effect, impact, and reality of our undertaking are more than welcome to reach out to me personally, I would love to receive any advice, direction, or encouragement from those who are interested in this outreach initiative.