A Japanese jazz phenomenon makes its American debut as the Ai Kuwabara Trio Project appears in four U.S. cities this month.
The schedule is as follows:
• Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Chevron Auditorium, International House, UC Berkeley, 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. Free admission.
• Saturday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m. at Los Angeles Theater center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. Admission: $5.
• Monday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Kenneth King Academic & Performing Arts Center, Metropolitan State University of Denver, 855 Lawrence Way, Denver. Free admission.
• Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m. at Fine Arts Building, University of Alaska-Anchorage, Alumni Drive, Anchorage. Free admission.
For details and reservations, contact the Japan Foundation-Los Angeles at (323) 761-7510 or www.jflalc.org.
Pianist Kuwabara produces her original music in collaboration with bassist Yusuke Morita for this piano trio project. While her music calls to mind a striking resemblance to that of two of her most loved and admired jazz pianists, Michel Petrucciani and Esbjörn Svensson of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (E.S.T.), Kuwabara expresses her creative world with the backing of her lush sensitivity and precise technique.
The trio’s first album, “from here to there” (ewe records), debuted nationally in Japan in November 2012, and their second album, “THE SIXTH SENSE” (ewe records), released in April 2013, reached No. 1 on the Tower Records Jazz Chart (Japan). In addition, The Japan Times selected it as the best album of the first half of 2013 (jazz category), a great acknowledgment. The trio has performed at a number of festivals, including Sapporo City Jazz 2013 and the 12th Tokyo Jazz Festival (Tokyo International Forum, Hall A).
• Ai Kuwabara
Born 1991, Chiba Prefecture. Graduated from the Music Department at Senzoku Gakuen High School as a jazz piano major in 2010. Studied piano under Yuki Arimasa, Yoko Yamashita, and Kazune Zaima. Active since her early years, winning many awards, including gold medals at the All-Japan Yamaha Electone Concours. Featured in AERA magazine as “Genius Electone Girl.” Switched to playing the piano from the latter half of junior high. After graduation, self-planned, produced, and composed music for her first live show in April 2010, gaining favorable reviews. Currently performing all over Japan in shows spanning a range of genres.
Worked in Germany from May to August 2011 as the pianist for the German production of “The Young Americans Dinner-Theater Europe.” Toured Japan as pianist for Yo Oizumi’s “Oizumi One-Man Show” from October to November 2011. Took part in the first official CD for the fashion brand “mastermind Japan,” in Def Tech’s “GREATEST HITS” album, and in a variety of recording work.
• Yusuke Morita
Born in 1988 in Hyogo Prefecture. After trying out various instruments, started playing bass in high school, and also began to study jazz on his own. Graduated from Tokyo College of Music as a composition major. Studied composition under Shigeaki Saegusa and Katsuhisa Hattori, and studied electric bass under Yoshihiro Naruse. Played with many professional musicians in jam sessions during his student years. Collaborated on recording work and provided other support for several projects, mostly in the club scene.
After graduating, took charge of arranging tracks for several compilation albums featuring tracks by artists such as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. A new generation bassist that has it all – improvisation using the diction of jazz, groove cultivated while working on dance music in the club scene, and logic fostered from composition and arrangement. Other than his present work with the Ai Kuwabara Trio Project, currently busy supporting and doing arrangements for several major artists.
• Shintaro Imamura
Born 1980 in Fukuoka Prefecture. Influenced by his father, an amateur drummer, joined YAMAHA Popular Music School at three years old. While in high school, participated in a summer school at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (England). Went to the United States upon graduation from high school and entered Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied under Kenwood Dennard. Returned to Japan in September 2005 and relocated his base of operations to Tokyo. Currently working on behalf of his own bands, Enginez and Loostripper, in addition to being involved in a variety of live shows and recording support.