LAJC at Bluewhale Monday January 25: Nobody’s Pretty, Hitomi Oba Group

By Gary Fukushima

2016 is here, and with the new year comes a new development that we are excited about.

One of our biggest advocates for many years has been our friend, Joon Lee.  Joon has always been a proponent of creating opportunities for musicians to be able to make music, and his dream of providing a safe haven for creative jazz artists has come true in the continued success of his downtown LA club, Bluewhale.  Joon, more than anyone, has embodied the mission of the Los Angeles Jazz Collective to create a stronger jazz community though providing a forum for musicians to showcase their works, and all jazz musicians in and outside of LA have benefited from his efforts.

Joon has been a gracious host for LAJC over the years, hosting our occasional weekend festivals and a few monthly residencies.  This year we are proud to announce Joon has decided to give us one Monday a month to present talented composers and improvisers.  Many of these artists, while deserving of much greater attention, are nevertheless flying somewhat under the radar.  It is our hope to try to elevate their flight path to a more visible altitude.

Leading off our monthly series are two artists whom I admire so much for their commitment to searching for and honoring their inner artistic voices in all aspects of their musical lives.

Nobody’s Pretty is a trio, and the brainchild of drummer Jens Kuross.  Jens, who also plays keyboards and sings, is out of town for much of the year, touring with Australian pop star Ry Cuming, and promoting his own solo career in London.  He’s getting big in London.  Probably the reason why he’s getting big is because he isn’t playing jazz there, but Jens loves jazz, so when he is back in Los Angeles he looks for any opportunity to do that, which is good for us, because he’s also very good at jazz.  His excellent trio with keyboardist Lee Pardini and bassist Nick Campbell plays music that could be described as ‘emo-jazz’.  It might be the most emo thing ever to play at Bluewhale, so if you are into emo you probably will love it, which of course means you will hate it.  All three musicians are adept at shifting in and out of jazz and rock conventions, and they are experts at creating multi-layered synth-based sonic textures.  They are super smart and good at what they do, and I’m sure they know it, but don’t worry, these guys are not assholes, they are whatever the opposite of asshole is.  In case you’re wondering, I’m trying to write like how these guys sound.  Trying is the operative word.

Hitomi Oba is a tenor saxophonist and composer of an astounding multitude of strikingly varied works.  Hitomi has studied and written for classical ensembles, big bands, Balinese Gamelan, Bulgarian women’s choir, classical Indian and jazz fusion, Japanese taiko drumming, and even a jazz opera.  She has also produced an electro-pop album, revealing through her singing yet another aspect of her superior musicianship.  She is, in other words, a superhero.  There seems to be no limit to her ability or desire to be continually creating new music.  Her latest project, LA Signal Lab, is a focused collective with other composers, writing and performing new and interesting works that bridge the divide between classical and jazz.  For this evening, Hitomi has selected fellow saxophonist Sam Gendel, along with Jens Kuross and Lee Pardini from Nobody’s Pretty.  She describes it as “the avant garde at its most cuddly.”

We are so excited to have Jens and Hitomi present their music for this first of our year-long Bluewhale monthly events!

show starts at 9pm; $10 cover

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