Todd Barkan: Continuation and Augmentation
TB: Jazz students who are educated are a tremendous backbone of the music. We're graduating more jazz students than ever. They are a big part of the people who will support the music now, and long into the future. They are the future of the music.
AAJ: Do you have much of a sense of the jazz education scene in Japan?
TB: I really do not know very much about the jazz education scene or institutions in Japan.
I do know that jazz radio in Japan is struggling, to the point of being almost non-existent. In the States, it's different. There's the entire National Public Radio Network and a lot of small radio stations all over the United States which are still playing a lot of jazz music every day of the year. That is where the music lives, as well as in jazz clubs and concerts and in restaurants. And on Satellite Radio, which also reaches a lot of people. The Real Jazz Station on the Sirius/XM Satellite Jazz Network plays straight-ahead jazz seven days a week, 24 hours a day, including weekly live broadcast recordings from Dizzy's Club Coca Cola and historic jazz recordings from Keystone Korner in San Francisco.
AAJ: A little more about Venus Records. Do you have any new projects coming up for Venus?
TB: We just released one of my favorite Venus recordings of all time, a recording by trumpeter Brian Lynch and the Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra with Phil Woods, Bolero Nights for Billie Holiday (Venus Records, 2009), and we did a beautiful recording with Tessa Souter, a British jazz singer, called Nights of Key Largo (Venus Records, 2009), with Kenny Werner, Romero Lubambo, and Billy Drummond. We have great new projects with the Kenny Barron Trio, singer Alexis Cole with pianist Fred Hersch, the Eric Alexander Quartet, the Dan Nimmer Trio, John DiMartino and The Romantic Jazz Trio, the Joel Frahm Quartet, and the last recordings of Eddie Higgins.
The Japanese jazz audience is passionate and, more importantly, consistent. And very faithful. They hang in there, year after year.
AAJ: You said you communicate well with Mr. Hara. Do you know Japanese?
TB: I really know very little Japanese, perhaps only a few dozen words at most. The only really important thing is that Mr. Hara and I are good, longtime friends who like and totally respect each other and this music we both love so much, and (which we) try to serve as much as possible, jazz music. We both speak the language of jazz.
AAJ: You mentioned that you worked with Mr. Hara on the final Bill Evans recordings. Would you reflect further on them?
TB: Bill Evans was one of the most gentle, warm, and completely positive and non-complaining people I ever knew or worked with in my life. But when Bill started his final eight-night run with his trio at Keystone Korner in San Francisco, it was very apparent to all of us that he was struggling horribly with his health.
We introduced Bill to a couple of very good doctors who both strongly advised that he immediately go to the hospital to be put on a very special diet to try and avoid the liver failure that was soon to overtake his life. But it was also very clear that he did not want to voluntarily spend any time in any hospital or undergo any special treatment to try and save his life.
On the bandstand, for those last eight nights at Keystone Korner, Bill was surprisingly upbeat and animated and unusually "talkative" to the audience. Although he did not say anything to me that seemed at all fatalistic, he did make it a point to make sure that I was making board recordings of all the sets because, as he put it, "some nice moments are definitely happening and we really would not want to lose them."
And our spirits can cling to these music polka dots and moonbeams, to make even our heaviest hearts sing.
Page 1: Peter Gontha
Page 2: Roberta Zlokower