Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler

Music Heals: Modern Jazz From Japan

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Takuya Kuroda's trumpet is exciting and bright, with a touch of Dizzy Gillespie in tone. i i

Takuya Kuroda's trumpet is exciting and bright, with a touch of Dizzy Gillespie in tone. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Takuya Kuroda's trumpet is exciting and bright, with a touch of Dizzy Gillespie in tone.

Takuya Kuroda's trumpet is exciting and bright, with a touch of Dizzy Gillespie in tone.

Courtesy of the artist

The recent natural disasters in Japan, and the scale of the resulting devastation, leave even those of us far outside the country with a sense of sadness and loss. We are bound by humanity, but also by the universal language of music. When there is loss, hope or joy, music is easily shared among cultures, even without words. In the spirit of recovery and healing, this installment of Take Five showcases five talented jazz artists from Japan.

Modern Jazz From Japan

Cover for Bitter and High

Takuya Kuroda

  • Album: Bitter and High
  • Song: Blue Tomato

Young trumpeter Takuya Kuroda, originally from Kobe, came to the U.S. to study at New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Since his move to New York, he's been a fixture on its working jazz scene. All but two of the songs on Kuroda's debut release are originals; "Blue Tomato" is exciting and bright, with a touch of Dizzy Gillespie in tone. This is jazz played with crisp style and excellent technique.

Bitter and High is available at CD Baby.

Cover for Until the Sun Comes Up

Atsuko Hashimoto

  • Album: Until the Sun Comes Up
  • Song: Blues for Naka

Organist Atsuko Hashimoto, from Osaka, began her career at 18, demonstrating organs for Hammond Japan and teaching as a certified Hammond organ instructor. In the early '90s, she became the house organist at The Don Shop, a club in Osaka. By 1999, she'd gained enough notoriety to make her debut at U.S. jazz clubs. Since then, Hashimoto has spent the last decade playing many festivals and clubs, recording albums, winning awards and further honing her craft. Until the Sun Comes Up is her latest recording.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Blues for Naka
Album
Until the Sun Comes Up
Artist
Atsuko Hashimoto
Label
Capri
Released
2011

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Cover for Spiral

Hiromi

  • Album: Spiral
  • Song: Deja Vu

Brilliant, energetic pianist Hiromi Uehara, from Shizuoka, is probably the best-known contemporary Japanese artist on this list. Her musical style is exciting and always venturing into new territory and textures. Hiromi began playing classical piano at age 6, and was so advanced in her playing that she played with the Czech Philharmonic eight years later. She soon developed an interest in jazz and traveled to Boston's Berklee School of Music to further her studies. Hiromi incorporates everything from jazz to rock to classical to metal into her compositions.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Deja Vu
Album
Spiral
Artist
Hiromi
Label
Telarc

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Cover for Oriental Express

Akiko Tsuruga

  • Album: Oriental Express
  • Song: Magic E

Organist and pianist Akiko Tsuruga, a native of Osaka, has been part of New York's jazz scene since the early 2000s. Her career began in her home country immediately after graduating from the Osaka School of Music. She played with many visiting American jazz musicians, including Grady Tate, who convinced Tsuruga to bring her talents to the U.S. Since her arrival, she's become a top jazz organist, with a style that's soulful, funky, swinging and fun.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Magic E
Album
Oriental Express
Artist
Akiko Tsuruga
Label
18th & Vine
Released
2009

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Cover for Virtuosi

Makoto Ozone

  • Album: Virtuosi
  • Song: Le Tombeau de Couperin I-Prelude

Kobe native Makoto Ozone, the eldest of the artists here, arrived in the U.S. in the early '80s to study at Boston's Berklee School of Music. During his time there, the pianist joined up with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton's Quartet, and began to tour the world. Ozone is also a classical artist: For Virtuosi, he teamed up with Burton to record an album containing jazz versions of 11 classical works. The piano/vibraphone duets pay equal respect to the beauty of both musical genres.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Le Tombeau de Couperin I-Prelude
Album
Virtuosi
Artist
Gary Burton/Makoto Ozone
Label
Concord Jazz

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

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