Japan Society Presents Jazz Overture For Performing Arts Season Celebrating 150 Years Of Cultural Union Between U.S. And Japan


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Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio: Pacific Crossing
Featuring Guest Artists Meisho Tosha & Kiyohiko Semba
Wednesday & Thursday, October 13 & 14, 2004 at Japan Society

As its first music offering of the new season, Japan Society presents Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio: Pacific Crossing. Tradition meets modern when world-renowned jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheerooan akLaff perform Yamashita's original jazz adaptations of Japanese folksongs, with guest traditional Japanese instrumentalists. Performances are Wednesday & Thursday, Oct. 13 & 14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $35 / $30 Japan Society Tickets can be purchased by calling (212) 752-3015 or by visiting www.japansociety.org.

Within its virtuosic jazz exploration of Japanese folksongs, Pacific Crossing reflects a deep and rich range of influences from ancient shamisen melody lines to the rhythms of obon dances. To flesh out the repertoire's native color, the Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio has enlisted special Japanese masters of indigenous instruments, including Kiyohiko Semba on traditional drum and Meisho Tosha on traditional flute. As a special prelude, William Minor, author of Jazz Journeys to Japan, offers a pre-performance lecture one hour before show times.

Continuing Japan Society's season-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Treaty signing (which ended virtual exclusion of all foreigners to Japan, and marked the beginning of Japan's westernization), the music is performed with a visual projection installation lent by the Yokohama City Central Library in Yokohama, where the treaty was signed in 1854 and where one of the first ports of entry opened to foreigners at the dawn of Japan's exchange with the West, just before the Meiji era.

Internationally renowned pianist Yosuke Yamashita has released over 50 albums. After his 1985 New York debut, The New York Times hailed his explosive playing style, noting: “He could slip in and out of stride rhythms or be-bop filigrees at will - aggressive playing tempered with just enough melodic finesse." Born Feb 26, 1942 in Tokyo, Japan, Yamashita has toured continuously throughout the world since 1974 and has made annual appearances New York's jazz scene since 1988. Along with frequent solo piano concerts, he has performed with various international artists including Kodo, Samul-Nori, EitetsuHayashi, Bill Laswell, Lester Bowie, Elvin Jones, Mal Waldron, and Max Roach among many others. He was awarded the celebrated Japan Jazzist Award by Swing Journal magazine in1981 and 1993, the Fumio Nanri Award in 1990, and was conferred the Purple Ribbon Medal from the Japanese government for his contributions to the arts and academics in 2003. Career highlights include an appearance with Toronto Symphony conducted by Michiyoshi Inoue and with the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux conducted by Erich Kunzel, a performance at the 50th Anniversary concert of Verve Records held at Carnegie Hall, and his presentation of a celebration concert for the King of Thailand. Yamashita composed the acclaimed film score for Shohei Imamura's Kanzo Sensei (Dr. Akagi) as well as the score for Kihachi Okamoto's Vengeance is Such a Great Business. Yamashita is a popular essayist with more than 20 published books to his name. Since 1996 Yamashita, has been teaching Jazz courses at the Senzoku Gakuen Music College in Japan as a visiting professor and the chair of that department.

In 1988, Yamashita formed the Yosuke Yamashita New York Trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. With frequent guest appearances by the Down Beat awarded saxophonist Joe Lovano and Ravi Coltrane, the trio has been touring all over the world. Available worldwide, their albums on Kitty/Universal and Verve Universal include Crescendo, Plays Gershwin, Sakura, Sakura Live, Kurdish Dance, Dazzling Days, Ways of Time, Spider, Canvas in Vigor, Wind of Age, and Fragments 1999.

Kiyohiko Semba, took up Japanese traditional percussions (tsuzumi, taiko, etc.) under his father's instruction at the age of three. He made his debut on the kabuki stage at the age of ten and has been pursuing his career as a musician ever since. Besides his solo performances, he has collaborated with artists such as Akiko Yano, Wahaha and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and formed numerous performance groups from large-scale orchestral groups to smaller trios with whom he has released several albums and toured worldwide to great acclaim, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, France and Germany.

Meisho Tosha was born into a long line of traditional musicians and is a leading performer and versatile player of authentic Fue [Japanese flute] music. He has collaborated with not only with musicians of Japanese traditional music, but also with performers of Western classical music, jazz players, and rock musicians, and many folk musicians. He gives regular solo performances all over Japan and around the world, to distinguished audiences, including Pope John Paul II, in the Vatican. Meisho has a series of recordings on the SONY and DENON label. John Rockwell of the New York Times (12/19/03) wrote “[Mr. Tosha's] performance summed up Japan, past and present. The music was the aural image of the passions and intensity of Japanese drama. Mr. Tosha's flute playing suggests that maybe the best way to bridge gaps between cultures, and probably gaps between individuals, too, is to be true to yourself."

About Japan Society

Japan Society, America's leading resource on Japan, is a private, nonprofit institution founded in New York in 1907. The Society promotes understanding and cooperation between the U.S. and Japan through a full range of programs in Global Affairs, Arts & Culture and Education. Society programming creates rich encounters and exchanges that increasingly reflect the broader Asian and global context of the U.S.-Japan relationship.


Location: 333 East 47th Street, between First & Second Avenues
Trains: 4/5/6 at 42nd St.; E & V at 53rd St.-Lexington Ave.)
Box Office: (212) 752-3015, Monday - Friday from 10 AM - 4:45 PM
Information: (212) 832 -1155

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