- Mwata Bowden - reeds
- Francis Wong - soprano sax
- Jonathan Chen - violin
- Hide Yoshihashi - taiko drums
- Amy Homma - taiko drums
- Melody Takata - taiko drums
- Tatsu Aoki - bass
"As the audience attests on this live
recording, Miyumi's amalgam of
cultures and creative spirit speaks
the worldwide language of joy."
- Lauren Deutsch, Executive Director,Jazz Institute of Chicago
Recorded Live June 27, 2007 at MALTA Festival, Poznan, Poland
- NOW 19:23 [ from Origins of Now ]
- Episode One 14:48 [ from re:ROOTED ]
- Episode Four 20:14
- Lacquer 13:02 [ from re:ROOTED ]
All Compositions Created by Tatsu Aoki,
SSD PUBLISHING CO / ASCAP 2008
May 27, 2008
Southport Records S-SSD 0125
CD ON SALE NOW!
by Michael G. Nastos, Allmusic.com
Place legendary baritone saxophonist Mwata Bowden, soprano saxophonist Francis Wong, and violinist Jonathan Chen in the midst of three Japanese Taiko drummers anchored by improvising bassist Tatsu Aoki, and you have the makings of a unique world jazz fusion group. The Miyumi Project, playing their music in front of the MALTA Festival audience in Poznan, Poland, express not only the raw aesthetics of their hometown Chicago Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, but also their southside blues roots and Asian heritage music. The ensemble has a wonderful cohesion when they all play together, but the drummers are also allowed plenty of space to firmly establish identity, which encompasses ritualism and percussive tribal village calls. The most noticeable aspect of the instrumentation is the absence of any cymbals, which keeps the music, for the most part, firmly in the lower end bass clef. There are two tracks spanning 20 minutes that allow the drummers -- Hide Yoshihashi, Amy Homma, and Melody Takata -- to establish beat parameters, stretch out, and dig in. "Now" begins as a quarter note call to arms, an opening first salvo before speeding up, disintegrating, introducing Aoki in a one-note bass foundation, then allowing Bowden and Chen to punch or jab back and forth. The free hand drumming during "Episode Four" is quite different, cementing a 2/4 beat before galloping off into a stout, strutting, Chicago blues from the horns with some interesting paradox harmonics from the lower baritone, soaring violin, and tinny soprano during their solos. The shorter "Episode One" has Chen's screech owl violin as an obtuse prelude to a funky blues groove biscuit urged on by Bowden's spiky and lean sax, while Aoki's lithe bass solo on "Lacquer" sets up a simple groove the Art Ensemble of Chicago might proffer, as sweet and sour strained harmonics in the upper registers contrast the deliberate beat. Bowden sounds as good as ever, which is the best reason why progressive music listeners should purchase this satisfying recording. More than that, the Miyumi Project is one of the more intriguing ensembles within world or ethnic fusion that effectively combines eastern and western dialects into a unified whole, and stands proudly along similar efforts by Billy Bang, Fred Ho, and Jason Kao Hwang.
What struck me immediately on my first trip to Poland was that it was not all black and white and gray, as I had imagined it would be. That trip took m to five cities where I saw beautiful baroque churches, smoky underground music clubs, massive stone castles and young people wearing the latest fashions from Paris. And everywhere I went, people seemed hungry to hear the creative improvised music we call jazz. I came home with a different perspective, as one often does after getting some distance from what we take for granted.
Why do Polish people seem to have such an affinity for jazz? Despite its scarcity during the Soviet era, plenty of people would find recordings, make copies and pass them along to friends through an underground network before the Internet made that a simple thing. This was, I learned, a nation that understood very well that the essence of jazz is the idea of freedom, in particular, the freedom for an individual to express ideas. For a country that had long struggled to maintain its cultural identity, it seemed to me that Polish people have a very deep well to draw upon when it comes to the language of jazz.
I met a kindred spirit on that trip - Wojciech Juszczak - who it turned out, loved not only jazz but especially the music coming out of Chicago. In turn I introduced him to another kindred spirit.Tatsu Aoki, whose boundary-breaking musical sensibility resonated with Mr. Juszczak's. He invited Aoki to Poland the first chance he got. And then invited him to bring the full contingent of his Miyumi Project comrades to perform at the Malta Festival in Poznan the following year.
I wasn't there for the Malta concert, but Wojciech called me on the phone, worried because the weather was not only unseasonably cold for July, but also raining, and he was afraid that people wouldn't come to the outdoor concert. I advised him not to worry.it wasn't a rock concert.people who love this music are passionate, and weather (at least in Chicago, in my experience) doesn't seem to dampen their desire.
There were about ten people there fifteen minutes before the concert started.
And fifteen minutes later there were eight hundred.
The only thunder they heard were Taiko drums speaking the universal language of the heartbeat. They saw not storms, but the graceful arcs of wooden sticks moving as if in one breath by master drummers Amy Homma, Melody Takata and Hide Yoshihashi. Tatsu Aoki's steady bass line anchoring the dual flights of Mwata Bowden's searing baritone chasing Francis Wong's taunting soprano. Jonathan Chen's violin scolding and cajoling like an eccentric exotic bird.
All of them in the NOW.
I've had the pleasure and the honor of watching and listening to this diverse group of musicians evolve over the past seven years; having commissioned Tatsu Aoki's Rooted: Origins of Now in 2001 and re:Rooted in 2006 through the Jazz Institute of Chicago. His conceptual framework is about exploring the nexus of cultures; Asian and American, Chinese, Japanese and African, past and present. His compositions provide a construct of ideas for each individual musician to interpret, and each successive grouping of Miyumi musicians have contributed new understandings of the fundamental nature of the work.
The dynamics of the group on this recording speak eloquently of the many times they have come together from across the continent and now across the sea to make music together. Mwata Bowden and Francis Wong have an astonishing sensitivity to each other, and obvious enjoyment when they have the chance to perform together. Melody Takata leads both by the elegance and grace of her statements and by giving ample room to the extraordinary young duo of Amy Homma and Hide Yoshihashi, who have taken the ancient art of Taiko drumming into a new realm. Originally from Chicago, Jonathan Chen has been living in Germany and was able to rejoin the group for the concert in Poland. His juxtapositions of the warm sound of the violin with pulsing electronics pushes Miyumi's sound even further into the future. And fittingly, at the base of it all, are Aoki's bass lines; shimmeringly transparent at times, densely textured at others and always in the groove.
As the audience attests on this live recording, Miyumi's amalgam of cultures and creative spirit speaks the worldwide language of joy.
Lauren Deutsch March 5, 2008
Executive Director, Jazz Institute of Chicago
Artistic Producer: Tatsu Aoki
Executive Producer: Bradley Parker-Sparrow
International Producers: Miho Satoh & Wojciech Juszczak, Estrada Poznanska
Project Producers: Joanie Pallatto & Bradley Parker-Sparrow
Recording & Mixing Engineers: Eryk Kozlowski & Kasia Palicka
Mastering Engineer: Bradley Parker-Sparrow
Digital Editing and Additional Recording: Ryo Otsuka
Design: Al Brandtner
Cover Photo Inside Tray: Lauren Deutsch
Tatsu Aoki portrait: Marcin Dondajewski
Outside tray: Piotr Dyba
Mastered at Sparrow Sound Design Recording Studio, Chicago, Illinois (2/15/08)
REAL JAZZ MADE IN CHICAGO
A SOUTHPORT AND ASIAN IMPROV WORLD RELEASE
It was a gamble, but East thrillingly meets West in Miyumi Project
Chicago Tribune Jazz notes
By Howard Reich, Tribune critic
May 9, 2008
More than 30 years ago, bassist-bandleader Tatsu Aoki took an artistic gamble: He began combining facets of ancient Japanese music with freewheeling jazz improvisation.
Though rudimentary, those first cross-genre efforts of his, in his native Japan, eventually blossomed into the Miyumi Project, now widely recognized as a groundbreaking merger of music from East and West.
Because Aoki moved to Chicago in the late 1970s and quickly set about developing his Asian-American experiment, the Miyumi Project has become a symbol of Chicago-style jazz innovation. Its rough-and-tumble sound, embracing everything from funk backbeats to blues vocals to avant-garde improv, has attracted audiences across the city and around the globe. [more]
Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project at Steppenwolf Theatre
By Howard Reich | Tribune critic
May 12, 2008
Few musicians have fused American jazz and Japanese folklore as dramatically as Chicago bassist/bandleader Tatsu Aoki.
Through his long-running Miyumi Project, Aoki has dared to pair avant-garde instrumentalists with thunderous Japanese taiko drummers, in effect linking two musical traditions otherwise separated by centuries and oceans. The partnership may seem unlikely, but at its best it can be exciting to behold.
The debut of the Miyumi Project on Steppenwolf Theatre's eclectic Traffic series over the weekend attracted a large house, perhaps because listeners anticipated fireworks. [more]
You may also be interested in the following albums:
The Miyumi Project (06)
Rooted Origins of Now
The Miyumi Project Big Band (01)
The Miyumi Project (00)
Basser Live II
Tatsu Aoki (05)
Back to Tatsu's Discography