All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

732

Steve Kuhn: On Japan

Wayne Zade By

Sign in to view read count
Japanese promoters often request specific rhythm players with me. They know the names and whom they want. —Steve Kuhn
Steve KuhnSteve Kuhn's most recent CD, Mostly Coltrane (ECM, 2009), pays tribute to John Coltrane, having been the first pianist in the legendary saxophonist's quartet. He also has played as a sideman with Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and many others. Mostly Kuhn has led his own groups, largely trios with bassists including Buster Williams, Eddie Gomez and David Finck and drummers such as Al Foster and Billy Drummond.

Kuhn has a long association with ECM Records, which also released the three-disc box set Life's Backward Glances: Solo and Quartet in 2009, containing first-time CD issues of Ecstasy (1975), Playground (1980) and Motility (1977). Another ECM highlight is Promises Kept (2004), with strings orchestrated and conducted by Carlos Franzetti. Kuhn has also had long associations with Reservoir Records and Venus Records.

The focus of this interview is on Kuhn's travels to Japan and his perceptions of its people and jazz scene.

All About Jazz: Do you remember your first visit to Japan to play?

Steve Kuhn: Yes, it was in a duo with Steve Swallow in the mid-'80s. A promoter there, a pianist, had come to New York and lived here for a while. He thought I'd been to Japan before, and I hadn't; he wanted to be the first person to bring me over, and he was proud of the fact that he could do that. I was happy to do it. It was just Steve and I, and we did a couple of weeks of things that this guy had arranged.

Some of the concerts were recorded, which I knew about. Years later, I got notice from somebody at one of the companies in Japan, saying that they had tapes of three or four concerts. In particular, I think we did two in this town called Sendai. They wanted to know whether, after I heard the tapes, I would consent to have them released. To make a long story short, we went back and forth, and the tapes were surprisingly better than I thought. That was near the end of the tour; and they got two CDs out of them.

AAJ: Did they come out on an American label?

SK: No, just Japanese. Then it seemed that almost everything I'd ever done, they were interested in doing. There was a demo with six songs on it, and at that time, Helen Keane was my manager. She of course had managed Bill Evans. She was going to shop the demo around, but nothing ever materialized. I played just electric piano on that.

Then, a few years ago, a company in Japan reissued an LP that I did for Buddha Records, the first recording I did when I came back from living in Europe in '71or '72. It was the last recording that Gary McFarland wrote arrangements for. There was a string quartet, and myself, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, and Airto Moreira. That was reissued in Japan. I made a copy of the six songs that were on this demo, and they added those on to what was on the LP. That came out in Japan only three or four years ago.

I had done another demo with Scott LaFaro and Pete LaRoca in 1960, and they put that out a couple of years ago as well. It's only 28 minutes of music, but they wanted to do it.

AAJ: So you are getting royalties on these things, everything's above aboard.

SK: [laughs slightly] Everything's above board. The royalty statements take a while to get here. I think they send them by carrier pigeon. It was not really a money-making situation, but I'm glad that the music is out there.

AAJ: When you've gone to Japan, were you there strictly to play, or were you able to have time to travel around the country, sightseeing, etc.?

SK: The first time, with Swallow, we had some days free in between concerts. So we did do more extensive traveling than I'm usually able to do now; the tours now are pretty jam-packed. But the first time, we went to a resort up in the northern part of Japan. It was in the fall, and I remember it was cold as hell. We were sleeping on the floor, on a mat, in a Japanese-style hotel. I didn't know how to work the radiator that was in the room; it was unbelievably cold, and I couldn't get warm. It was not too pleasant. They had these baths, for men and for women, and some were "co-ed," with the salts, the health stuff. I didn't go in, but Swallow went in, along with the promoter who was with us. So I did see a fair amount of the country on that first tour.

Steve KuhnAAJ: You visited cities and towns both?

SK:Yes.

AAJ: And the concerts were in clubs and concert halls both? You played mainly clubs?

SK: I'd say maybe 70 percent of the concerts were in clubs.

AAJ:Have you been asked to teach in Japan?

SK: No. I do have Japanese students here in New York, but I haven't taught in Japan. Sometimes students will come for a month and take a few lessons, and then go back. Over the years, I've had quite a few Japanese students.

AAJ: When you play in Japan, do you play mainly with American musicians?

SK: I always bring my trio.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
General Articles
Rediscovery
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
At This Time...

At This Time...

Sunnyside Records
2016

buy
At This Time…

At This Time…

Sunnyside Records
2016

buy
Steve Kuhn: Non-Fiction

Steve Kuhn:...

ECM Records
2015

buy
Wisteria

Wisteria

ECM Records
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage Live Reviews
Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at...
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: June 13, 2018
Read Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong Live Reviews
Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong
by Rob Garratt
Published: June 11, 2018
Read Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art Live Reviews
Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar Live Reviews
Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar
by Barry Witherden
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 9, 2018
Read "Michael Lington At Blue Note Napa" Live Reviews Michael Lington At Blue Note Napa
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 28, 2017
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Vilnius Mama Jazz  Festival 2017" Live Reviews Vilnius Mama Jazz Festival 2017
by John Sharpe
Published: November 28, 2017
Read "Bill Laswell/Milford Graves/John Zorn at The Stone" Live Reviews Bill Laswell/Milford Graves/John Zorn at The Stone
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 22, 2017
Read "Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre" Live Reviews Trish Clowes at Mermaid Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 17, 2018
Read "Lello Molinari Quartet at Regatta Bar" Live Reviews Lello Molinari Quartet at Regatta Bar
by Doug Hall
Published: May 6, 2018