International House of Jazz, April 30

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Wednesday, April 30
7:30pm

International House of Jazz
Celebrating International Jazz Day

CAP Studio
13752 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Ticket Price* —
• AT THE DOOR (cash or credit card)
General $20
Student w/ID $10
• ONLINE: $20 + fee at http://bit.ly/1pah2qP

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by Gary Fukushima

[Some of this material excerpted from my last post, for continuinty.]

When I was in college in Seattle I had quite a few friends who were from other countries, who came to the States for a first-rate American education.  Some of these friends of mine were living in a large
multi-room house on Greek Row called the International House.  I remember visiting their place and being struck by how close the members of the IH were with each other, even though they all from vastly different parts of the world and spoke different languages.  It seemed to me they all found a shared experience through the very nature of being different, and it brought them closer.

In a way, jazz musicians can often feel they are from another planet, as they enjoy listening to and playing things that in this day and age carry little relevancy to the rest of the world.  Jazz festivals can sometimes provide a feeling of belongingness, after endless months of musical isolation, a de facto desert island with nothing but your favorite Albert Ayler records.  In light of that, just getting to see a bunch of creative musicians all in the same room can be encouraging.  At the same time, this is also an International House, so we’ve hand picked artists and groups who represent, either by nationality or musically, many different parts of the world.  We have musicians from Brazil, Armenia, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, and the music will reflect an even larger swath of multiculturalism.  Jazz and improvised music will be the unifier for all of us on this day.

Here’s a brief rundown on our performers:

PART ONE–TRIO
• Vardan Ovsepian | piano
• Tatiana Parra | voice
• Artyom Manukyan | cello

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Vardan Ovsepian is one my favorite pianists in Los Angeles.  He has exquiste touch and technique, and his ideas are all so brilliant and well-executed from start to finish.  He also has a knack for paring up with amazing vocalists, including Portugese singer Sara Serpa and Korean-born vocalist Joon Lee, who also happens to own a famous jazz club here in LA.  His most recent discovery is Tatiana Parra, from Sao Paolo, Brazl, recently transplanted to Los Angeles.  Tatiana has a unique ability to sing incredibly difficult harmonic and rhythmic melodic passages, somehow doing it with such joy and ease it’s as if she’s singing nursery rhymes. Her unique abilites are well-suited for Vardan’s intricate writing, and he took full advantage of it in their new duo album, Lighthouse.  It’s a remarkable exhibition of eloquent intensity and gorgeously challenging compositions.  They will be joined by cellist Artyom Manukyan, who, like Ovsepian, was born in Armenia and part of the rich musical heritage of their country. There has been a signifcant contribution to jazz from Armenian artists, from jazz legend Paul Motian to piano sensation Tigran Hamasyan. Who knew a Brazilian-Armenian fusion could be so delightful? Well, these three did.

lighthouse
Click here to hear a sampling of Lighthouse

PART TWO–QUARTETO NUEVO
• Christopher Garcia | percussion
• Jacob Szekely | cello
• Kenton Youngstrom | guitar
• Damon Zick | woodwinds

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click here to listen to a sampling of Quarteto Nuevo

Quarteto Nuevo was founded and is led by master percussionist Chris Garcia, who is equally at home in either avant jazz or world music settings, having played shows with everyone from the Moscow Symphony to Bobby Bradford’s Mo’Tet. Each member has a rich background in diverse music making with the instruments and the musics of North and South India, western classical, indigenous Mexican, folkloric and jazz music with an ensemble sound unlike any other.  Their self-titled album, Quarteto Nuevo, is an exemplary display of rhythm and texture, an astute synopsis of music from many places around the world.  If this band doesn’t get you to understand how jazz can fit into nearly all musical cultures, then you probably won’t understand how jazz can fit into nearly all musical cultures.

PART THREE–QUINTET
• Hitomi Oba | saxophone
• Gary Fukushima | piano
• Abe Lagrimas | drums/vibes
• Hamilton Price | bass
• Miles Senzaki | drums/electronic effects

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Hitomi Oba, Abe Lagrimas, Jr, Miles Senzaki and I all were part of an Asian American jazz festival a few years back and we’ve remained friends ever since. This the first time all of us have gotten to play in the same group, and I’m so excited to make music with these musicians.  Hitomi has done so many interesting projects, from her own jazz cd’s to working with an Indian classical and jazz collaborative ensemble (click here to see Hitomi with the Adyita Prakash Ensemble), to producing a electro-pop record, to even writing and performing a jazz opera. She’s also well-versed in Bulgarian choir singing, Japanese taiko, and Balinese Gamelan.  Abe Lagrimas was born in Hawaii, went to music school in Boston, was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk drum set competition in 2012, and currently tours the world.  In addition to drumset, Abe is also a great vibraphone player and has a side performance career playing solo ukulele.  My good friend Miles Senzaki has been involved in jazz, hip-hop, afrobeat, and soul bands for years, recently holding down the drum chair in the acclaimed funk band Breakestra.  Miles and I first met and got to know each other as part of the house rhythm section at a jam session in Downtown LA, along with bassist JP Maramba, who was originally scheduled for this event, but is unfortunately unable to participate.  In JP’s place on bass is Hamilton Price, who is one of the most sought after jazz bassists in Los Angeles, and has played with many of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, including Kenny Werner, Brian Blade, Billy Childs, Geoffery Keezer, Eric Reed, and on and on.  We’ll be doing a very international-themed set of music, including a brand new composition by Hitomi written especially for this band.

PART FOUR–MR. DanZ
• Ben Shepherd | bass
• Dominique Taplin | keys
• Neil Kogan | guitar
• Steven J. Robinson | drums

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click here to see a video of Mr. DanZ

Did you know Ben Shepherd played bass for Soundgarden?  That he was a drunk and an a jerk and ended up homeless?  Did you know that there’s another Benjamin Shepherd who is much younger, nicer, better looking and a better bass player?  Well now you know and you will never confuse the two again.  Born in New Zealand and currently living in LA, Shepherd has already moved into an elite space among bassists, recently touring with guitar legend Lee Ritenour and in a trio with fellow Kiwis keyboardist/dj/wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe and drummer Myele Manzanza.  Ben’s pet project is the fusion band Mr. DanZ, which is definitely an homage to all the great fusion bands of the past (he cites the bass legend Alphonso Johnson as a major influence and personal mentor), yet with a youthful exuberance that recharges the genre with a breath of fresh air, something that’s difficult to do in smoggy Southern California.

It’s a lot of diverse music by a lot of diverse musicians.  What better way to celebrate International Jazz Day?  The only thing better is if we all go out and eat pancakes afterward.

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