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Friday, July 1, 2011


Jazz and classical: Hokkaido's cool and Ozawa's masterpiece

Special to The Japan Times

The first round of events to be served up this summer are the monthlong Sapporo City Jazz and Pacific Music Festival, both held in the musically jam-packed (and comparatively cooler) city of Sapporo in Hokkaido during July and August.


Chiho Iuchi

Favored festival: Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto
Number of attendances: 3
Must-see acts: Bela Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" The opera will be conducted by maestro Seiji Ozawa, who is recovering from cancer. The setting in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, is also cool. For those who'll stay in the capital, Festa Summer Muza Kawasaki from July 28-Aug. 14.

Sapporo City Jazz is a relative rookie on the scene, having been established in 2007, however it has been steadily building its reputation and is now one of Japan's leading jazz festivals. With a lineup that gets better every year, it's easy to see why. Make sure to catch celebrated songstress Salena Jones, and the vocal soundscapes of Mari Boine in the spectacular White Rock Music Tent in the middle of the city's Odori Park.

The Pacific Music Festival, which began in 1990, will have a more relaxed summer schedule with concerts scattered throughout the period. The musical director this year is Fabio Luisi, principal conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Other notables include celebrated American baritone Thomas Hampson and Osaka-born Naoko Shimizu, the principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Farther south will be the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto from Aug. 8-Sept. 11 in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. The Saito Kinen Orchestra was founded in 1984, a decade after musical director Hideo Saito's death, by celebrated conductor Seiji Ozawa. Concerts to mark on the calendar are Japanese pianist Yu Kosuge's rendition of Mozart's Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat major K.493 supported by the full orchestra, and Kazumi Watanabe and Daisuke Suzuki, Tomohiro Yahiro and Coba in a quartet performing Harold Arlen's "Over The Rainbow" as well as others from the well-known composers work. Also, don't miss the Orchestra Concerts conducted by 26-year-old Diego Matheuz, happening at month's end.

The Monterey Jazz Festival in Noto and Tokyo Jazz Festival will have more compact musical calendars, taking place July 30-31 and Sept. 2-4, respectively.

Based on California's Monterey Jazz Festival, the Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture version lives up to the name. Main acts include jazz and salsa ensemble Orquesta De La Luz and nationally loved big-band Akio Okamoto and The Gay Stars. Expert trumpeter Okamoto and his crew will be joined by guests Yuzo Kataoka on the trombone and talented jazz vocalist Chiho Kumada in a collaboration not to be missed. Also make sure to catch Maya joined by the Akira Matsuo Quartet, and jazz-festival regulars the Toku Quintet.

Finally, Tokyo Jazz Festival will bring in the big guns with the likes of the Count Basie Orchestra, DMS — made up of George Duke on keyboard, Marcus Miller on bass and David Sanborn on sax — and jazz pianist Kenny Baron gracing the stage. Other acts to note are Lee Ritenour leading the electrifying Tokyo Jazz Super Guitar Session, multi-talented musician Raul Midon and Hiromi Uehara on piano forming a trio with Anthony Jackson and Simon Philips, winding up a summer of smooth listening.

Festival lineup

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