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Friday, Oct. 23, 2009
Asagaya Jazz Streets
By NICHOLAS VROMAN
Asagaya Jazz Streets, one of the best-loved jazz festivals in Tokyo, turns 15 this year. For two days, Oct. 23-24, neighborhood venues and concert halls are commandeered to host a who's who of Tokyo jazz players. The event began as humble neighborhood promotion, but now 20 local clubs are in on the festivities, highlighting a plethora of jazz talent in intimate settings. The event features street performances — guerrilla and officially sanctioned — by student groups, amateur Dixieland bands, buskers and indefinable pickup ensembles, all centered around JR Asagaya Station. Friday night kicks of with 20 different performances in public venues, including the Mike Price Jazz Quintet and The Latin Jazz Clan.
One of the opening-night highlights is Yosuke Yamashita, one of Japan's most-renowned jazz keyboardists. From his roots in the 1960s free-jazz movement, he's had a long history of collaborations with world-class musicians of many different stripes. He performs twice on Friday, at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., on the grounds of the Shimei Shrine.
A busy touring musician, Yamashita plays in Matsumoto, Nagano Pref., the following evening, and throughout Kanto and Kansai in October and November. On Oct. 28 at Tsukiji Hamarikyu Asahi Hall and on Nov. 11 at Tokorozawa Muse in Saitama, he will perform in a special program with Korean master percussionist, Kim Duk Soo.
Another opening night highlight is Martha Miyake. A premier vocalist since the 1950s and Jazz Streets stalwart, she brings a seasoned voice to the occasion for the 15th straight year in a row.
Saturday highlights include the Noguchi Susumu Quartet performing music from Studio Ghibli productions "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Ponyo On the Cliff" as part of the Jazz for Children program, proving that there's something for jazz fans of all ages at Asagaya Jazz Streets.
Asagaya Jazz Streets runs Oct. 23-24 at various venues near the JR Asagaya Sation. Two-day passes are are ¥4,500. A one-day pass is ¥2,500 in advance (¥3,000 on the day of the show). There are additional entrance fees at club-sponsored shows. For a complete schedule, venue map and ticket purchase information, visit www.asagayajazzst.com. For Yosuke Yamashita's complete touring information, visit www.jamrice.co.jp/yosuke/schedule/schedule.htm