Category Archives: Musical Encounters – Eng

Daisuke Ito

~ Giving a voice to music ~

Just like everyone else, as a young girl I used to be filled with many future dreams. One of which was to become a musical performer.

However, the glitz and the glamour, the aggressive self-promotion and luring sexuality, the smoke and the booze never attracted me, so whilst I still loved listening to music, I put a lid to my own performing days as I graduated from student life.

Or so I thought.

An unexpected prolonged stay in Tokyo introduced me to the world of Jazz fusion, and the wonderful musicians who performed day in day out.

The more busy and eventful my non-music life became, the more I treasured the magical moments in hidden venues across the city, where music and musicians transferred me to another world.

They gave me refuge, respite, laughter, rejuvenation, relaxation, and an intimate connection with music that I thought I would never experience again.

I could hear and sympathise with the pain, the worry and the uncertainty that was embedded into the souls of the composers and the players. But equally, I heard the droplets of laughter singing down the river, the hope, the warmth, the encouragement.

This was never more so than when Daisuke Ito opened his mouth to sing.

Or should I say placing music in the air, ever so gently, ever so lightly, but also with meticulous precision and quiet strength that every word that was spoken waded through the thick of your skin and seeped into the core of your body.

It is hard not to notice his love for the world around him, through the warm and intricate words he has carefully chosen for his original pieces. Many an audience have become blurry eyed as the words help open and heal the sores of their hearts, carried with a vibrating yet soothing voice.

And it is also not hard to notice the love his fellow musicians have for him in return. In the countless musical units he performs, his companions – be it a pianist, a melodica or bass player – are quick to provide him with a delicious bowl of home-cooked nutrition as they travel Japan from head to toe. Some have even dedicated a song to him, to encourage a little “me time” amongst his busy musical adventures.

And, it is of course no wonder that the audience love him, as he gives it his all for every single performance he makes, no matter how big or small. Already a musical magician the first time I saw him perform, he never fails to surprise with another trick up his sleeve as the days, months, and years go by, and as each new unit matures as the tours increase.

Perhaps he will never belt out like Pavarotti, and others may have the upper hand in mimicking the every sounds of the world. However, to me, he represents the birth of music in its simplest form, waiting to be heard, waiting to be played with, and waiting to be shared.

Each and every instrumental combination that he performs with is unique and unmissable in their own ways, but one group you certainly don’t want to miss is of Daisuke Ito himself – and only himself. The multi-year project to perfect the art of using one voice to produce an orchestra, a choir, a band, or a chant in the forest right in front of your eyes is definitely a performance to watch.

If you thought his out of the league performance was going to build an ocean between you, you thought wrong. His voice is as enticing as it is a pleasure to listen to, and has gently nudged the backs of wannabe singers, including mine.

He may constantly be running hundreds of miles ahead (and so he should be!), but no matter how little or big of a part music plays in my life, he will always be the musical pied piper who lured out the voice from within me, and no doubt for many, many more.

Are you ready to be showered by his magical words, or try resisting the temptation to let your own music out?

If yes, please visit his website to find the many shows he may be performing with across the country and beyond:

And to pick out some of his many steady bands, see below:

“Ibuki Sarasa” – Vocal & Melodica duet:

“Hutarioke (“Two-man orchestra)” – Vocal & Bass (+) duet:

“Hamojin” – Four vocalists A Capella:

George Nagata

~ A journey of emotions with a song loving pianist~

On a cold New Year’s Eve, I ventured out on a rare excursion to listen to some jazz in a cosy venue.

That was the night I met with the sound of George Nagata’s piano, playing along to the voice of a singer that I knew. Something in his music caught my attention, which led me to continue the journey with one, yet another of his jazz infused performances across the city of Tokyo.

What makes his piano special is the emotional connection in his music like no other, which becomes an addiction for many in the audience.

Yet he is also a genius in finding musical gems in the rough, guiding them on a road that may even supersede him. His hands are if they hold a magical wand, teasing out what his co-performers themselves may not know they have within. His piano intertwines with their voices, their instruments, creating a dramatic, yet warm sounding environment.

And this ability doesn’t stop with live performances.

It can be hard to top the excitement and atmosphere of music being created right in front of your eyes. But whether it is because he is blessed with the support of great technical engineers, or has chosen the perfect recording studios, his magic also seems to touch the many albums he has produced with these up and coming artists. They are indeed, some of the most played albums that I hold of artists close by.

His love for vocal miracles is not a hidden secret, given his quarterly “Vocal Crossing” series, counting over thirty, aiming for one hundred. His production skills are put to the test in these series, which he co-produces with singer Daisuke Ito, inviting two exciting guest singers each time.

As for his piano, it has been evolving day by day, the freedom increasing by each performance. Not to mention the occasional chorus, voice percussion, and very rarely, rap (!) that seems to develop and in some cases even take centre place over the melody played by his hands.

Though sensitive, sweet music can be heard from the chords he plays, his comedic interaction with his musical partners can take you on an additional laughing spree. For this, there is nothing better than experiencing the world-class trio “Triple Standards” including George, guitarist Naoto Suzuki and his trusted vocal companion Daisuke Ito.

Have I intrigued you?  Trained in the West Coasts with musical connections across the continents, who knows which corner he may turn up in next.

George Nagata’s website:

Videos uploaded by George Nagata:

Kay Hirai

~ Tapping into the world of Kay Hirai ~

In short, Kay Hirai is a talented drummer.

But it would be naïve to leave it at that.

First, he is a creator of worlds. That may sound like an overstatement, but anyone who has listened to his original pieces in a live performance would probably agree.

Whether its watching the adventures unravel before the old clock tower, a travel through time to ancient battlefields, the swirl of water around the rocky landscapes in nature’s hidden beauty, or soaring through the sky to the rhythm of animals marching past below, Kay manages to capture these and take you to a new world which he has created. His originals are both meticulously planned yet also leaving room for creative flexibility.

Instinct tells me his music is composed in a way that only percussionists could achieve – meaning that in addition to the melodious tunes that are essential to the piece, there is care and attention to how the individual scrape of the cymbal, a thud from the bass drum, or a chirp from the saxophone can build the world we listen to.

His compositional creativity is not limited to his own lead band. As a producer, he nurtures the landscapes and stories hidden within other budding musicians and helps bring them to light – both through artistic direction and instrumental contribution. This includes Shinshu Jazz, featuring pianist Sayuri Isatsu, who puts the love for her home region Shinshu into the images and melodies of her music.

Eagar to share his joy for music, Kay is also not shy to take opportunities to perform in schools and host jamming sessions to help music new comers experience the wonders of musical communication.

But after all this talented multi-tasking, the most recommended experience is to hear his live drum performance. Not only is it a pleasure to listen to, but to see him effortlessly dance through the drum set is a joy to watch as well. His carefully prepared musical tools will take you through sun and rain, from east to west, south to east, and travel through the beats of swing, samba, bolero, and traditional Japanese Taiko drums. If you are lucky, you may also feel the presence of the souls of those that have inspired the creation of some of his songs dancing and laughing along with you.

So much more could be said, but better let his music speak for itself.

Kay Hirai’s Official Website:

Videos uploaded by Kay’s record label, Bright Sun’s Record:

Hiroyuki Yokota

~ Travelling off the beat’n path with a saxophone ~

On a sunny weekend stroll in the pretty streets of Marunouchi, you may hear a bouncing melody with the gentle booming beat underneath.

The sound is of Yocotasax., a saxophone player, layering his melodic saxophone onto his original track music.

His tracks are filled with stories, which attract the attention of even those who are not the usual techno/beat connoisseur.

After sampling his tracks on the street, go home and put some headsets on and let the same tracks absorb you. Whether it’s the intricate beats of the “Tornado” fastly approaching in the city nights, or the young, fresh and playful sounds of “Drops”, there is sure to be a track or two for your liking.

In addition to his solo tracks & sax, Hiroyuki Yokota also performs regularly in a number of groups, including his jazz-based lead band called “Gaudav”.

The band’s name originates from two people that he has been inspired by – Kenji Miyazawa, the renowned Japanese author who wrote books including Gauche the Cellist (“Gau”), and inventor Leonardo da Vinci (“Dav”). Perhaps fitting with their namesake, there is both a rhythmical finesse and daring boldness to their sounds.

Here you can hear both the soft smoky wail of the saxophone in classic jazz ballads, to the powerful blasts on the rhythmical hotpot of sambas, irregular meters and 4 beats in one of Hiroyuki or Hideaki Hori (pf)’s original tunes.

But what is most surprising is how his saxophone takes you across the oceans to continents and countries afar, yet Hiroyuki himself has barely stepped out of the Japanese main island.

Perhaps his saxophone has adopted memories of the passers-by during the prolonged street performances. Or maybe the musical masters simply decided to reside within him when he plays.

Either way, perhaps the world in which the saxophone travels will someday soon be heard by the world over. Until then, come enjoy his music in the streets of Tokyo, or in the cosy environment of one of his well visited venues.

For his solo performance, tracks and info go here:

For all other activities by Hiroyuki Yokota go here:

Photo by Keita Haginiwa (See his “Your Eyes Only” series here )