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Friday, Jan. 6, 2012

Leading jazz musician Ozone to play Polish-influenced gig

Special to The Japan Times

Pianist Makoto Ozone is coming up on 30 years as one of the leading Japanese jazz musicians of his generation. He'll kick off 2012 with a concert featuring guest vocalist Anna Maria Jopek and flute master Tomohiro Fukuhara in Tokyo.

News photo
Play us a tune: Jazz musician Makoto Ozone plays with Polish vocalist Anna Maria Jopek and flautist Tomohiro Fukuhara in Tokyo. KIYOTAKA SAITO

Well known for his time playing with vibraphone master Gary Burton in the United States, Ozone has spent the last two decades playing gigs around the world, teaching music students and hosting his own radio show in Japan.

Having just finished a one-week run providing the musical accompaniment to Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Setagaya Public Theater, on Jan. 7 he will be leading a special concert at the Edogawa Cultural Center.

The sextet includes Ozone's recent collaborator, Polish vocalist Jopek, and Fukuhara. Earlier this year, Ozone played five sold-out nights in Poland with Jopek and her group to great acclaim.

"It was quite a risk for me going over there and playing this music for a fresh audience," Ozone says. "How would the local fans react to our mixture of local Polish styles with Anna Maria, alongside traditional jazz? Thankfully we communicated beautifully and ultimately couldn't get off the stage. We had to do four or five encores every night for the crowd."

The Tokyo gig will feature not only Polish folk songs and Ozone's jazz-based compositions, but also Japanese traditional melodies and Indian sitar accompaniment. It's a mixture that in some hands can get a bit too contrived but Ozone's group coalesces the diverse sounds around a jazz foundation, keeping the music grounded while still exploratory.

The group heads to Shikoku for another gig in January, but no further dates are planned as of yet, so this show is a must-see.

New Year Jazz takes place at the Edogawa Culture Center in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo, on Jan. 7 (Doors open at 4:30 p.m.; ¥5,500; [03] 3652-1106); the group plays the Multi-Purpose Community Center in Matsuyama on Jan. 9 (Doors open at 6 p.m.; ¥6,500; [089] 921-2192). For more information, visit www.makotoozone.com. The Japan Times will feature an interview with Makoto Ozone in the Jan. 12 edition of the newspaper.

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