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Tatsu Aoki: The Miyumi Project

Mark Corroto By

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Of the wholly American art forms-jazz, cowboy movies, and fast food-jazz seems to have generated the most controversy as to its origins. Many believe jazz was given to the pilgrims by native Americans that first Thanksgiving during the halftime show. I hold to the theory that jazz came from New Orleans at the confluence of European, African and Caribbean cultures. From Buddy Bolden to Louis Armstrong’s migration to Chicago, jazz grew from the popular music of the day and ethnic groups that adopted it. From Coltrane improvising on “My Favorite Things” to Miles Davis covering Michael Jackson and free jazz guitarist Derek Bailey improvising over electronic drum n’ bass, jazz has had the ability to digest sounds and return them to us with that certain swing.

In Chicago (as well as on the West Coast) jazz has felt the influence of the Asian community. From Fred Ho’s Afro-Asian Music Ensemble to pianist John Jang, jazz has spread her accepting arms even wider. One of the hottest bassists working in Chicago is Tatsu Aoki. His resume includes Fred Anderson (reviewed this month), the Grammy nominated Asian American Jazz Orchestra, and several critically acclaimed solo bass records.

Aoki’s Miyumi Project, named after his daughter, brings together the distinct music of the East in the forms of Japanese drums – taiko and shime, Korean drums – Buk, and mixed them with his own jazz bass, and AACM musician Mwata Bowden. Aoki’s vision was to create sounds that borrow from the traditional drumming of Asia spiced by African, Latin and European sounds. The Taiko drumming beats (and I mean beats) a macho time in a very regular pattern. Over this very physical sound, Mwata Bowden (8 Bold Souls) improvises his large baritone saxophone. The effect is similar to fellow Chicago percussionist Kahil El Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, except the beat is from the East. Double reedist Robbie Hunsinger to add a call and response joins Bowden’s saxophone and clarinet. He even picks up a digeridoo on "Early Dance” pushing the recording to an entire world music. Most songs state a simple pattern for the reeds or Aoki’s bass to improvise over. This engaging approach comes directly from the heart and soul of a true innovator of jazz.

Track List:Movement; Kurodabushi; River; Color Coordination; Early Dance; Floating Weeds; Ink Erasers; Fast Ride; Apology.


Personnel: Tatsu Aoki

Title: The Miyumi Project | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Southport Records

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