Saturday, October 19th – 7:30-10pm
jazz club! when lights are low…
every Saturday night
Akira Tana, drums & leader
Masaru Koga, saxophone, shakuhachi, flute, percussion
Grant Levin, piano
Ken Okada, bass
“Akira Tana’s wonderful group is truly doing something very special here and it is a fine example of how music can break down cultural barriers and expose the commonality within us all.” — Jazz Inside
“The quartet has created a gorgeous body of music interpreting traditional and contemporary Japanese melodies through the lens of jazz.” — San Jose Mercury News
“Performance seemed love-filled and compassionate. At times it felt like a lullaby; no wonder the children slept. It was exquisite.” — San Jose Mercury News
On the eve of a fall tour of Japan, their fifth, Otonowa comes to Bird & Beckett!
The name Otonowa comes from the title of a recording made 25 years ago by Akira Tana with bassist Rufus Reed and pianist Kei Akagi as the Asian American Jazz Trio, released in Japan on King Records and in the U.S. on Evidence Music, fashioning jazz treatments from the bones of Japanese folk and pop songs.
In 2012, Akira put together a trio emulating the earlier trio, now with Mas Koga on reeds and flutes and Ken Okada on bass, and named it Otonowa, to perform a benefit concert at the Elsewhere Gallery in Fairfax for victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan in March of the preceding year.
Many performances across the U.S. and several tours of Japan have followed, raising money for ongoing relief efforts, giving workshops for students and spreading goodwill.
The concept behind this group is very much in the tradition of jazz, truly an American art form. This group is comprised of Japanese (now U.S. citizens) who live in the U.S. and also Japanese Americans who were born in the U.S. Thus, this group is made up of Japanese and Japanese Americans musicians raised in this country, learning the jazz vocabulary in the US and retooling and reinventing songs from their native land in the jazz idiom.
Otonowa has completed a CD dedicated to and in commemoration of the tragic events in Northern Japan comprising jazz interpretations of traditional Japanese folk melodies that date back a century and more. The incorporation of these Japanese folk elements extends the long tradition of American jazz artists interpreting American popular and folk songs, e.g., Miles Davis’ recording of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and John Coltrane’s interpretation of the well known song from the Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things.”
In Otonowa’s interpretations, traditional Japanese instruments, like the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese flute, and the fan drum, an instrument popular in festivals throughout Japan, are employed alongside the piano, acoustic bass, and drum set. The educational component of Otonowa’s presentation expands the concept of American jazz and exemplifies the cultural diversity of a country like the U.S. while utilizing songs and melodies from foreign shores.
Otonowa’s methods are not new or revolutionary. What makes this group unique is that the members have learned their craft here in the U.S. and seek to interpret songs of their Japanese ancestry in a uniquely American way.
Born and raised in California, Akira Tana earned degrees from Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music. Tana has worked with SONNY ROLLINS, SONNY STITT, ZOOT SIMS, HUBERT LAWS, MILT JACKSON, JIM HALL, ART FARMER, THE PAUL WINTER CONSORT, PAQUITO D’RIVERA, JAMES MOODY, J.J. JOHNSON, LENA HORNE, THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER, RUTH BROWN, CHARLES AZNAVOUR, MAURICE HINES, AND VAN DYKE PARKS. He has appeared on over 150 recordings.
Tana co-led a quintet with the bassist, Rufus Reid called TanaReid, with five releases, “Yours and Mine” and “Passing Thoughts” on Concord Records; and “Blue Motion,” “Looking Forward,”and “Back to Front” on Evidence Music. On Sons of Sound, Akira has three releases as a leader, “Moon Over the World,” “Secret Agent Men” and a project by the Secret Agent Men Band playing themes from the movies of James Bond, entitled “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” This project features Rodney Jones, Gary Versace, Jimmy Greene and Annie Sellick, among others.
An active teacher and clinician, Tana has taught at Rutgers University, Queens College, Jersey City State College, New York University, and is currently on the faculty at San Francisco State University and the the Jazz Institute in Berkeley, Ca.
Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.
The BBCLP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit...
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