All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Tomas Fujiwara: The More the Better

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
AAJ: So you've known him since high school?

TF: We didn't go to high school together, but I met him when we were both in high school, and we played a handful of times in high school. And he already had every Miles Davis album, and he was already deep into it. I moved to New York when I was 17, and at that point I was very into checking out as much music, both live and recorded, as possible. And I really became interested in the history, the people, and the stories, and how it connected to the culture of the times. And that's ongoing.

AAJ: Listening to your previous work and this album, there are other influences that are there—for instance, a rock influence. Where did that come from?

TF: When I first started playing drums, I wanted to play the music on the radio that my friends were listening to, so a lot of that was rock. Unfortunately, a lot of that in that era was hair-rock... but also I got really into hip-hop, and hip-hop was actually a way that I learned about jazz, because at that time they wrote out where the samples came from on the CDs. So that's how I learned about James Brown through the funky drummer breakbeat, or if they sampled a Milt Jackson riff, I would go check that out. Or Ron Carter, on [A Tribe Called Quest's] Low End Theory, and even those Jazzmatazz records, I think Donald Byrd was on one of them, Roy I've always paid attention to popular music.

AAJ: Could you say something about the role that family plays in your music? A lot of your songs have dedications to various members of your family—including The Air is Different, which had a photo of your grandfather on the cover, correct?

TF: Yes. One of the compositions on that album was written after my grandfather had just passed. He was a Buddhist priest, and I took a bell/bowl from the temple as a keepsake, and I didn't use it that much, but one day I played it and listened to it, and I heard all of this resonance and I started writing a piece based on that. And then as I was writing more music around that time for the Hook Up, I drew more inspiration from my time with him and my grandmother in Japan. They lived in a beautiful, remote place, and the temple was attached to the house, and I would go there a lot in the summers as a kid. So that was on my mind. But with a lot of my inspiration for pieces, I don't want to be too overt about it; I really want the listener to take their own experience from it. So a piece that might be inspired by my grandfather, if it makes someone else think of, I don't know, an ocean seascape, that's great. And I feel that if there are too many pieces where I'm telling people exactly what they're about, and the inspiration, I feel like that limits their experience and limits their creativity as it relates to the music that I'm trying to produce. Because I think listening can be very creative and evocative and also individual, varying from person to person.

That photograph [from The Air is Different] was taken at the Emperor's Palace, and my grandfather had received that medal that he has on his jacket from the emperor for his contributions to the country as both a priest and in education, as he was superintendent of schools in their town. And I always love that photo, so when I was thinking about the layout for the album, and some visual stuff, that really resonated with me. And then I wrote a piece about him in the album liner notes. But more of the music was inspired by things like that, and I was less obvious about stating those things—again, to let people take what they will from it. But I think that's a nice way to show the personal nature of the pieces I compose, and it doesn't give too much away, because if you don't know my grandfather you can know that a piece might be inspired by him. You can see that as part of my process, but you can also take something of your own away from it. And Triple Double is dedicated to my four grandmothers: pieces are inspired by them and by certain memories, but I spell that out a little less. You know it's dedicated to these important women in my life, but I don't think I say which songs and in what way they inspire me. And I like that: I give you a little and let you figure it out.

And that's also the way I compose when I have great musicians to compose for—I don't want to spell everything out. I was just explaining this to someone last night at the workshop we did at the University of Michigan, when they were asking me how I write. And when I write it all out, it's maybe twice as much information as what I end up giving to the band. So I might write something super-specific—articulation, dynamics, et cetera—but then I might pull out certain things when I give them the music, and let them interpret it the way they want.

AAJ: Do you use a piano when you write?

TF: Yeah—I'll use the piano, I'll use the vibes, I'll use the drum set. I'll do some writing away from an instrument, and I'll use the computer. It changes from piece to piece. With most of my compositions I'll probably end up using most of those things, but depending on what the first instrument is, that might make a difference between a piece that originated on the piano versus a piece that originated on the drum set.


comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Triple Double

Triple Double

Firehouse 12 Records

Triple Double

Triple Double

Firehouse 12 Records



482 Music


Related Articles

Read Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached Interviews
Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity Interviews
Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: April 10, 2018
Read Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education Interviews
Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: April 9, 2018
Read Fabian Almazan: Multilayered Vision Interviews
Fabian Almazan: Multilayered Vision
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 30, 2018
Read Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity Interviews
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 27, 2018
Read Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary Interviews
Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 16, 2018
Read "Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached" Interviews Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 17, 2018
Read "Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird" Interviews Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Pat Martino: In the Moment" Interviews Pat Martino: In the Moment
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 12, 2018
Read "Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist" Interviews Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist
by Mario Calvitti
Published: May 16, 2017
Read "Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames!" Interviews Arto Lindsay: Watch Out Madames!
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: April 25, 2017
Read "Hugh Masekela: Strength in Music and Character" Interviews Hugh Masekela: Strength in Music and Character
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: January 23, 2018