Japan Jazz – The Future Jazz Quartet

A few years ago, I got together with some young Japanese musicians in the recording studio to lay down some Japan Jazz tracks. It was all original music that challenged and exhilarated us.

In this article, I’m going to share about an amazing band I was a part of and the groundbreaking Jazz album we recorded together.

Japanese Jazz

Jazz is alive and well in Japan. Japanese Jazz like many things in Japan, is partly borrowed from the US Jazz tradition, with a sprinkling of Japanese flavor.

Almost from the time I moved to Japan, I connected with up-and-coming Japanese musicians. They all had experience playing Jazz but had a way of turning traditional Jazz on its head. It was a fresh take on an old idea.

Three musicians in particular caught my attention. They ended up being the same musicians that I recorded with in this project. These musicians are Harumo Imai – Sax, Aiko Yoshiba – Keys, and Naoki Isobe – Bass.

Musical strengths

Each of us had musical strengths we brought to the band. Aiko was great at composition, organization and performance, Harumo and Naoki were great at composition and performance. I also brought my composing and playing skills to the project.

After about 2 years of gigging together we thought it would be great to record an album together. With Aiko’s immense help we used crowdfunding to pay for the recording which easily covered all of our expenses. Our many enthusiastic fans and supporters were all excited to hear our songs recorded.

The Future Jazz Quartet recorded the unique sound of Japan Jazz.
Members are left to right: Naoki Isobe – Bass, Harumo Imai – Sax, Von Baron – Drums, Aiko Yoshiba – Keys

Following our recording, we were picking up steam and getting many offers to play at Jazz Festivals and clubs throughout Japan. We were selling tons of CD’s and merchandise at all of our shows.

Things were really starting to blow up and we were excited. As we looked toward many more gigs together, the unthinkable happened, a pandemic.

Alas future Japan Jazz no more

Everything stopped and all of our gigs were cancelled. It was like getting whiplash from hitting the brakes too hard. Whatever momentum we had was gone and we were left greatly unfulfilled. Our fans and supporters too were very disappointed.

Our story is not unique. Many of my American musician friends suffered this same fate. It was however, a very challenging time to say the least.

Japan Jazz like that of the Future Jazz Quartet is a mix of American Jazz and Japanese music.

Future Jazz Quartet Recording

There is though, a silver lining to this story. WE HAVE A KICK-ASS RECORDING! I am so proud of the songwriting, arranging, playing and recording on our CD, FLYING HUMANOID.

We played without fear and our only musical boundary was our infinite creativity. I think this album also represents some of my finest drumming to date.

The cover of our CD of Japan Jazz.

We managed to fuse Jazz, Hip-Hop, Classical and Soul music into a cohesive, powerful sound. Put it this way, if you came to one of our shows with a perm, you would walk out with straight hair! This recording captured that feeling so well that our fans have even said that if sounds and feels just like one of our live shows.


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The Future of Jazz

As you may know, I am mostly a “straight-ahead” kind of Jazz drummer. I don’t often get called to play this kind of music which is why, I was particularly excited for this performing and recording opportunity.

All members of the band, including myself, composed songs for the project. The two songs I wrote are Autumn in Akita and Freestyle.

Autumn in Akita was inspired from a beautiful tree I viewed from my hotel room window on one of my trips to perform in Akita, Japan. Freestyle was inspired from my love of Hip-Hop music. Every track on this album takes you on a journey of musical surprises. I think you’ll agree that it’s a one-of-a-kind sonic experience.

The exact tree that inspired my Japan Jazz composition Autumn In Akita.
The exact tree that inspired me to write Autumn in Akita

Aiko, Harumo and Naoki were much younger than me which was great energy to be around. That’s why I came up with the band name The Future Jazz Quartet. I believe all three of them will all play a role in the future of Jazz music in Japan with their forward-thinking compositions and playing.


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Conclusion

In spite of the pandemic being such a challenging time I am grateful The Future Jazz Quartet could create such a forward-thinking Jazz recording.

My hope is that this album will serve as inspiration for a new generation of Jazz musicians in Japan and beyond. Like everything else, Jazz’ survival depends on its ability to change with the times.

To me, this album truly represents the future of Jazz music. For Jazz musicians and all musicians around the World, we just keep on keepin’ on.

We’ll see what the future holds for the Future Jazz Quartet. For now, however, take a minute and check out our album Flying Humanoid. I think you’ll dig it!


Here are the links to the other band members. They are all monster musicians and doing great things. Please go check ’em out!

今井晴萌 Harumo Imai (tenor sax)
葭葉愛子 Aiko Yoshiba (pf/key)
磯部直樹 Naoki Isobe (bass)
At the FLYING HUMANOID recording session.

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What’s one your all time favorite bands you’ve played with?


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