It’s hard to believe that almost a whole year has passed since we embarked on what we first thought was to be a little series of shows among friends, only to see it blossom into a beautiful musical event that stirred up among us a cultural resonance many of us didn’t know existed. I personally came away from last year’s festival with a deeper connection to my identity as an Asian American artist, which is something that I had actually not thought about for a long time.
One of the cool things about having a blog is that it’s pretty easy to go back in time and see what you were thinking then. Here’s a quote from my blogpost a year ago:
…I think at some point what we were doing this weekend became bigger than us. Our incedental attempt to just get a bunch of talented Asian and Asian American musicians in the same room ended up being swept up in the long arc of the history behind the Asian American jazz movement. Who knows, perhaps it was this history that nudged us to this very moment we find ourselves in now. However it happened, I am energized by the events of this weekend, I have a lot of new friends, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for all of us.
Well, part of what’s in store is happening soon, as the Asian American Jazz Festival ’09 has grown up and become the Asian American Music Festival ’10.
Promoter and Festival Organizer Paul Im has expanded the roster to include Asian American and fielded some impressive talent from many different genres of music that will grace the state of the art performance and lecture space called the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. Two of the acts that I’m especially excited about are the band Milk and Jade led by the amazing cross genre cellist Dana Leong, and the legendary ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro.
Of course, the highlight for me will be on Saturday afternoon, October 16th at 1:30pm when I and my faithful trio get to share a stage with the legendary Jon Jang. Mr. Jang, a composer and pianist from San Francisco, is a seminal figure in the history of Asian Amerian Jazz. He was gracious enough to attend last year’s festival and even agreed to speak at one of the shows. He talked then about the transmission of the legacy of Asian American musicians to a new generation, and in that spirit Paul Im astutely invited Mr. Jang to return this year for a solo piano performance.
What’s more, Paul, with the composer’s blessing, has asked me to put together a group to perform the Jon Jang composition Reparations Now! Concerto for Jazz Ensemble and Taiko. The band will be named the Pan Asian Arkestra, in honor of the group that Jon Jang had founded in 1988 to play his concerto. The piece is an important work in Asian American history, as it helped to call attention to the movement for reparations for tens of thousands of Japanese Americans who were interrned during World War II, and one of the first major works to feature the taiko alongside western instruments. The musicians who have agreed to play this music are all wonderful players and I’m excited to make music with them. They are:
Saxophone/Flute: Hitomi Oba, Ian Vo, Michael Birnbryer
Trumpet, Trombone: Josh Aguiar, Nick DePinna
Bass, Drums, Piano: JP Maramba, Miles Senzaki, Gary Fukushima
Taiko: Yuri Yoshida, Liz Ishida
Another exciting development is that the taiko players, Yuri and Liz, have been sent to us courtesy of Los Angeles’s own Taiko Project, which is perhaps the most dynamic and certainly the hippest taiko group in the world. They have collaborated on so many interesting ventures, from a national Mitsubishi car commercial to performing with Stevie Wonder, and we’re extremely pleased to have them on board for this show.
GF3 is going to start the afternoon off with a set of music. We’ve been working on a lot of new material and we are excited to present it in such a prestigious setting. One of the Arkestra members, saxophonist Hitomi Oba, will debut a piece for the band as well. Hitomi is an exceptional composer and I can’t wait to play her music as well.
Needless to say, this is a tremendous opportunity to see some history being made and to listen to some incredible music. If you go to the festival website you can by a festival pass or an all day pass (which will get you in to see Jake Shimabukuro that evening), or if you are just planning to see our show you can buy individual tickets buy clicking on this link:
As the Tateuchi Forum only seats 200, there is a chance the concert will be sold out well before the date of the performance, so buy your tickets now if you intend to go. Hope to see you at this amazing event.