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Take Five With Shoko Nagai

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Shoko Nagai: Born in Nagoya, Japan, composer and pianist Shoko Nagai has been evolving as a professional musician for fifteen years. In Boston, she received a full scholarship at Berklee College of Music. In 1999 she moved to New York City and quickly established herself in the downtown jazz scene performing with musicians such as John Zorn, Rasheid Ali, Buch Morris,Tom Rainy, Cuong Vu, Matana Roberts, Ikue Mori, Satoshi Takeishi, Guillermo Brown, Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto), Tomas Fujiwara and Matt Bauder, to name a few. Shoko Nagai has performed extensively at the Blue Note, The Stone, Roulette, Knitting Factory, The Kitchen and Vision Festival, as well as at other top New York clubs, and festivals in Japan, US, Europe and South America.

Instrument(s): Piano.

Teachers? I learned many things in school, but I couldn't find a good teacher. My music style was changing to contemporary and experimental music after graduated school, so I practiced on my own and tried to find my sound. I looked for something interesting or I would go to see good stuff.

Influences? John Cage, Morton Feldman, Björk, Stockhausen, György Ligeti, John Adams, Alva Noto, Radiohead, Kamaitachi (japanse ghost), Arvo Part, Japanse Noh, '80s pop. Brain, Sun, strangers, traveling, dreams, feeling, food, noise.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was twenty years old, playing organ in concert. I was playing as professional at the time and didn't realize it. I became a professional musician without realization. It felt really natural to me.

Your dream band: Any new band is my dream.

Did you know... I'm taking powder, in winter made from insect, in summer made from glass. It is good for immune system. It is sound strange, but it is true.

What is in the near future? I've released four CDs so far and have been playing with my jazz quintet for a long time. So now I'm looking for something different from my group. One project is "Vsoon", a free improvisation duo with piano and electronics. For my most recent work I received a grant from the Philadelphia Music Project. Another project, "Ephemeral," is comprised of seven jazz artists who will compose and premiere compositions that incorporate musical traditions from their cultural roots. Also Satoshi Takeishi and I have composed music for the Japanese film Starfish Hotel, directed by John Williams, which has been shown world-wide. Another film that I worked on is the French film L'Amour Caché, directed by Alessandro Capone and conducted by Butch Morris. Satoshi Takeishi and I are curating a monthly event of electro acoustic experimental music with visual artist called {R}ake at monkeytown, in Williamsburg.

Feb 10, 2008 @ The Stone 10pm Feb 20, 2008 @ The Stone 8pm Feb 27, 2008 @Zebulon 9pm

By Day: Practicing Buddhism teachings at my temple. It is more than a special thing to have. I'm learning many things as a human being from his teachings.

Another thing I do is teach music for kids on every weekend. Every day I have to listen to students, even when I'm not teaching, like one neighbor, who is a very beginner trombone player. I love music but sometimes you need a break too. Since then, I'm not crazy about the trombone sound, but I guess that's New York living.

I'm enjoying investigating my grand piano, trying to discover how not to make sounds like a piano and create new sounds.


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