Wednesday Wine Bars, Weekends and Wurlitzers

Thanks to those of you who came out last weekend to see our trio show at Cafe Metropol.  For a last minute booking, we actually brought in quite a few folks, and the owners were happy with both the music and the turnout.  I’m very excited to be doing more shows with Miles and JP this summer, and we hope to keep it rolling!

A few shows of note this week:

On Wednesday I’ll be at the Left Coast Wine Bar and Gallery with reedman Tony White.  Tony and I have been playing here for a number of months now and we’re developing a nice rapport and repertoire.  The LCWB&G has an upstairs loft with a nice piano and very soft couches, perfect for intimate wine drinking and snuggling, if you’re into that sort of thing.

On Saturday I’m at Cafe 322 with my longtime collaborator Roger Cairns, to celebrate the release of our new CD The Dream of Olwen, a project that features just the two of us, an all ballads album that includes some little-known gems along with a few pieces that are more familliar.  It was quite a challenge for me to prepare the arrangements and provide for Roger a capable accompaniment all by my lonesome, but the project was very rewarding and I learned a lot about myself in the process.  At 322 we’ll be doing a lot of those duo tracks as well as some of Roger’s regular fare with rhythm section and saxophone.

The weekend ends for me with another trio concert, on Sunday afternoon in the courtyard behind Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, as part of the Pasadena Playhouse District Jazz Summer Concert Series.  The Playhouse District is in its 7th year of hosting this free concert series and I’m honored to be included on their roster of esteemed performers.  Once again, Miles and JP are my loyal sidekicks on this.  We’ll be doing music by Vernon Duke, Leonard Bernstein, Stevie Wonder, Gary Fukushima, and of course Fiona Apple.  I am also bringing out for the occasion one of my most prized posessions, a Wurlitzer 140B electric piano which is sounding all kinds of awesome after I had a miraculous epiphany on what was ailing my precious for so many years.

Anyway, another week of interesting music to be made.  Not a bad summer if I do say so myself.

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GF3 @ Cafe Metropol Friday 7/30


Cafe Metrople is a 1937 film about a Paris nightclub of the same name.  The owner of the club in order to avoid being sent to jail for embezzlement cooks up an elaborate scheme to conscript an equally unscrupulous but much younger and handsomer gentleman to woo a rich American girl and get her money by impersonating a rich Russian prince.

Sound preposterous?  It’s as feasible as trying to fill a small room in downtown Los Angeles with avid fans of jazz piano trio music with three days notice, thanks to a last minute cancellation.  But if those crazy guys in Cafe Metropole the movie can pull off their improbable stunt than I have hope for a another miracle at Cafe Metropol of Los Angeles.  In the land of Hollywood you must believe in happy endings.

Gary Fukushima Trio @ Cafe Metropol
Friday, July 30 8:30pm
923 East 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90013

Gary Fukushima piano,
JP Maramba bass,
Miles Senzaki drums

p.s. it’s already a miracle that all three of us were able to make this
date on such sort notice.  Come be a part of the magic!

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playing w/ III (feat. Walter Smith III) for LAJC Summer Jazz Festivial 2010 @ The Blue Whale

blue whale

The Blue Whale is the rarest of creatures.  This creature is so rare you may only find a handful of them throughout the world, and if you come across one of them by accident consider yourself lucky.  Some of them are very old and bear the scars of years and wisdom.  They need a very particular set of conditions to survive and without those factors they might indeed find themselves washed out on a shore of lost hope.  Many other creatures try to emulate the Blue Whale but they cannot, being either too clueless or too inexperienced or too callous to fully understand what they need to do to survive and thrive.  The Blue Whale is full of hope and love.  The Blue Whale cares about beauty in the world. The Blue Whale is your friend.

The Blue Whale is the rarest of creatures, and in this case that creature can also be called A Great Jazz Club.

I did a not-as-poetic write-up on the Blue Whale on, which you can check out here.

Official festival post here.

All About Jazz story here.

If you don’t want to click on any of those links then I hate you but in a nutshell it’s a two-night festival this weekend featuing four different groups each night.  I’m playing on Saturday night for the 11pm set with the band III, which features Walter Smith III on tenor sax, myself on piano, Dan Schnelle on drums, and Dave Robaire on bass.  Brian Swartz will play trumpet on a few tracks as well.  Walter is awesome, he tours the world, plays regularly with guys like Christian McBride, Terrence Blanchard, Jason Moran, et al. and his playing and writing is exceptional.  I’m actually a little scared…

But seriously, for $10 a night you get to listen so some of the most dynamic players in town.  There’s some really good piano and guitar and organ trios, a solo set that’s bound to be life-changing by keyboard wizard Adam Benjamin, and a nine-piece ensemble to close the festival.

It’s been awhile since the LAJC did a two-day event like this one, and to do it at the Blue Whale makes this perhaps the most anticipated festival since our first one.

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Some interesting shows happening this weekend:

On Friday, I’ll be joining the Tina Raymond Trio at First and Hope Supper Club in downtown Los Angeles.  Tina, an excellent young drummer, is from my alma mater CalArts, as are her two bandmates, bassist Emilio Terranova and guitarist Tim Fischer.  First and Hope is a brand new place with this classic looking back room, harkening back to fonder days.  Also, the food is amazing here.

Saturday I’ll be at Columbo’s in Eagle Rock with the Tony White Quintet. I live in Eagle Rock, and it’s cool to actually play at a place that you could walk to, although I don’t think I will.  If you haven’t been, Columbo’s is one of those old time Italian steakhouses where you can still see a lot of old Italians.  Apparently Eagle Rock was at one time home to a sizable Italian American community.  Tony is a soulful, spirited saxophonist, and he knows how to have a good time on stage, so it will be fun times indeed.

On Sunday the Tony White Quintet rolls on down the 110 Freeway to San Pedro and Rosalie and Alva’s Performance Gallery, a cool state of the art listening room with some incredible pianos to choose from, which is cool for me I guess.  This will be a fun show ’cause we have my musical brothers Miles Senzaki on drums and JP Maramba on bass, as well as old friend Yu Ooka on guitar.  It’s a family-friendly afternoon show, so if you live in the South Bay (this means you, cousins and Aunties and Uncles) it would be great to see you.

Click on any of the gig listings to the right for more info.

Last (and best), here’s your gratuitous baby pick of the week:

Jesslyn will be at the Sunday show.  I’m just sayin’…

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Gary Fukushima Trio @ The Blue Whale Saturday, June 5

blue whale food

The Blue Whale not only has great jazz, it also has really good food and drink.

GF3 makes its second appearance at this wonderful jazz club.  I’m excited for this gig, due to the fact that the Blue Whale recently got a brand new Yamaha grand piano, and because I’ve written a few new pieces that will be debuting on Saturday.

Gary Fukushima Trio @ The Blue Whale

123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St Ste 301 Los Angeles, CA 90012

Saturday, June 5 9pm-12am

Gary Fukushima, piano

Miles Senzaki, drums

JP Maramba, bass

$10 cover

Validated parking in the underground garage on 2nd Street

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Interview for The Jazz Session with Jason Crane

the jazz session

Click here to hear the podcast.  We talk about the history of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective and about the creative jazz scene (or lack thereof) in LA, interspersed with lengthy excerpts of music from our sampler.  If you ever wanted a good overview on our little collective and what it is exactly, this is a good place to start.

It was almost a year ago when our publicist set up an interview with one of the best jazz podcasts on the internet these days.  The interviewer is Jason Crane, host of “The Jazz Session with Jason Crane”.  Jason has done stellar interviews with many excellent and notable artists such as Terrence Blanchard, Chris Potter, Jason Moran, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, Vijay Iyer, Peter Erskine, and so on.  Needless to say I was mildly terrified of going on a show that had featured so many heavyweights with the potential of making a complete ass of myself for all the jazz blogosphere to see.  Nonetheless we did the interview by phone, he was on the East Coast and I was sweating it out in my car before playing a casual gig near downtown LA.  Jason is an engaging personality and a good interviewer, and I thought it went pretty well (the interview, I mean).  He unfortunatly called me “Greg Fukushima” as we were wrapping up, but not to worry, he assured me he would fix that in post.

Many months passed and there were weekly podcasts of the Jazz Session, but not ours.  I began to have the sinking feeling that perhaps that interview wasn’t so hot after all.  I was pretty sure that I must have said something stupid and unsalvageable.  I thought about contacting Jason to see what was up, but a part of me was afraid of what I might hear as to why he hadn’t put out our interview.

Then on Monday, my fears were laid to rest.  Jason had finally released my interview, with on air apologies for forgetting about it and having it buried on his hard drive for all these months.  So I can breathe a sigh of relief, the interview wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that memorable.

I guess I can live with that.

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Los Angeles Jazz Collective Festival this Sunday @ Vitello's

Brick Wahl in his excellent LA Weekly column Brick’s Picks states:  “We’d almost given up on the L.A. Jazz Collective, so seeing their Spring Jazz Fest on Vitello’s calendar this Sunday was a happy surprise.”  Don’t give up on us, Brick!  It certainly has been awhile since our last big event, so this one is long overdue.  I’ve posted the full roster below the jump for all of you to check out.  Or you can just click here.

I am playing with the Ryan Seward/Josh Welchez Group, set to go on at 6pm.  We’ve been rehearsing a lot for this show, and I must say the music is sounding pretty good.  This is kind of a coming out of sorts for Ryan, who lives way out in Rancho Cucomonga and doesn’t make it into town much, which is a shame cause he’s an awesome guitarist and a great composer.  We also have Walter Smith III playing with us on saxophone, and he’s just incredible and we’re lucky he’s not on the road with Terrence Blanchard right now so he could do the show.

We’ve got a full lineup of great artists, capped off at the end with the LA Jazz Quartet featuring Chuck Manning, Larry Koonse, and Darek Oles, and Brian Swartz’s band featuring Bob Mintzer.  It should be a great evening and the price is reasonable, $10 for students, $23 gets you in plus two drinks, $50 gets you in plus a real Italian-American dinner that Don Corleone would enjoy.

Please come by and enjoy some great music.

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I’ve been fortunate to have been pretty busy with gigs as of late, a lot of interesting varied performances, which is both fun and stressful due to how intricate most of the music is and how little time I have to practice these days.

On Thursday I’ll be back at the Foundry On Melrose with my good buddies Matt Cory on bass and Dan Schnelle on drums, 8:30-midnight. Usually lots of people looking to have a good time, and we can play pretty loud, actually we have to in order to stay relevant here.

Friday is a rather crazy day, with an early performance in the Valley as a featured soloist with the CalState Northridge NuVeau Art Ensemble, followed by a mad scramble to North Hollywood to play a late 10pm hit at The Oyster House with Tom Luer’s great quintet, featuring Tom on saxophone, Andy Synowiec on guitar, Dan Schnelle again on drums, and Ryan McGillicuddy on bass. Tom’s has a new CD coming out soon, with interesting covers of bands you actually have heard of, like Radiohead, Coldplay, and Pearl Jam to name a few. Yes, it’s still jazz.

Saturday I get to play at Cafe Metropol with my really good friend Kai Kurosawa in his trio which also features standout drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr. Kai plays an unusual instrument that goes by the catchy name Bear Trax. It has twelve strings that cover as much range as a piano with the added advantage of looking like some Klingon Death Ray Gun with the Head Chopper attachment. If you don’t believe me, check out the promo pic that Kai made:

Kai writes some of the most original music I have had the good fortune to play.  Show starts promptly at 8pm. Kai is also setting up a live video shoot, so if you want to be on YouTube, now’s your chance…

Whew, I’m already tired just thinking about the next few days.

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Gary Fukushima Trio @ The Blue Whale March 12

Well, it’s been months since our last trio gig, but I’m really looking forward to this one.  The Blue Whale is a new club that has opened in Little Tokyo, in Weller Court on the corner of 2nd and San Pedro.  This place is a real breath of fresh air for the jazz musician community-it’s an ultra cool place with affordable drinks and great appetizers, it always seems to have plenty of people hanging out, it has great reviews on yelp, and the owner, Joon, is an absolute gentlemen who has nothing but the utmost respect for every single musician that he invites to perform.  He’s already scheduled the likes of Bob Sheppard, Larry Koonse, Anthony Wilson, Walter Smith and Jamie Rosenn, with so many more clamoring to play here.  When I asked Joon why he decided to open his place, he told me “because the jazz community in LA needs this.”  Amen, brother!

JP has been on the road for most of the past six months with Lukas Nelson (yes, the son of Willie) but he’s back and the three of us are hoping to break in Miles’ new recording/rehearsal studio with a new trio recording (or two).  We’ll be doing a few gigs over the next few months trying out some new material as well as some of the stuff we’ve been playing for years but never recorded.

We’ll be playing on Friday from 9pm-12:30am, with guests to sit in towards the end.  Hope to see some of you!

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Back from life ON THE ROAD

It’s been a busy year thus far…got to go on the road for a few shows with erstwile swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, out to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (wow!) and then over to Kansas City and Buckeye, AZ.  After all these years, they are still going strong and sounding great.

It was definitely a challenge to learn their book and step into the shoes of a brilliant pianist and arranger, Joshua Levy.  Josh’s wife just gave birth to a beautful baby boy, their second kid, hence my opportunity to play with the band.  Josh and I have a lot in common, we’re about the same age, married with children, piano players, only Josh has been touring the world with BBVD since he graduated from USC in ’96, while I’ve had so many diverse and varied experiences I couldn’t possibly begin to catalog them.  I find it fascinating to imagine being in one and only one band for 15 years.  Talk about job security!  In talking with Josh I got the sense that he was also intrigued at what it would be like to be a freelance jazz musician.  I for one, have enjoyed all (or at least most) of the different gigs I’ve been fortunate to do over the years, getting to meet and play with so many great players.  I must admit, though, that it sure was nice to get a taste of what it feels like to be part of a band that has had has much success as they have had.  They once played a halftime show at the Super Bowl, for crying out loud!

Most of the guys in the band have been together from the beginning, and they a close group of fellas, brothers even.  As the new guy it could have been a bit awkward but all the guys couldn’t have been more supportive and encouraging, even to the point of flipping me shit like they did to each other ALL THE TIME.  I really had a great time, and hopefully there will be more gigs with them in the future.

(pictures from New Orleans forthcoming)

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