Jan 06, 2021

Have you ever listened to Japanese Jazz on Vinyl?

Jazz music on Japanese vinyl records is not exclusively western jazz.

Its musical DNA comes from African-American and mixed-race artists descended from black and white ancestors; Jazz was already at its dawn one form of attempt to cross the boundaries of race, class and space. With roots in the black music, Jazz spread around the world faster than any other cultural phenomenon. It developed by adjusting itself to various musical genres and local cultures in every corner of the world.

Indeed, Jazz has remarkable adaptability, enabling itself to flourish in Japan, too, as Wa-Jazz or Japanese Jazz. In this digital age, passionate fans of Japanese jazz are now digging for hidden gems which had been long buried alive.

If you are interested in “Wa-Jazz”, Face Records store is the perfect place for you to find the best J-Jazz vinyl records.

What Is Japanese Jazz?

In music history, Japanese people encountered Jazz almost twice; for the first time around the 1920s through live music and vinyl records American sailors brought to Yokohama port, and after World War 2 during a period of capitulation for the second.

Each time, Japanese musicians combined local, traditional melody, instruments and playing methods with imported Jazz, creating unique music which we call “J-Jazz” today. But what exactly Japanese Jazz is, if there is any possibility to define, that’s a tricky matter. For Jazz fundamentally is a universal mass culture without clear cultural and formal borderlines, and “Japanese” is an intangible, fluctuating concept as well. And yet Japanese Jazz is a very unique field to witness how ethnic consciousness and indigenous folk culture have been interpreted and expressed in a universal form of music.

As evolving J-Jazz can be seen as an experimental attempt to bring out the potential of local ethnicity in the modern cultural and universal context, the struggle of Japanese musicians varies. Hideo Shiraki (1933-1972), the Jazz drummer, adopted the Japanese harp in his “Matsuri no Genso (In Fiesta)” in 1961. Shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute was brought by Hozan Yamamoto into “Zen for meditation” by Tony Scott, or Wadaiko, which had appeared inclusively in rituals and festivals, were played in a Jazz session “Kojiki” (“Record of Ancient Matters”) by Eitetsu Hayashi and Yosuke Yamashita. Other musicians even tried to harmonize Japanese unique playing methods with traditional improvisation of Jazz. For these artists, Jazz music, which originates from the United States and eventually became the universal language, might have been the practical way to find out how to express his or her ethnic self-identification.

In 2018, the UK based record label BBE (Barely Breaking Even) released a landmark compilation of J-Jazz music works mainly played during the period of 1969-1984. Featured were an array of artists and composers, who shaped the post-war modern jazz scene in Japan, such as Koichi Matsukaze, Toru Aizawa and Takao Uematsu. Their names are however generally only known to committed collectors of Japanese Jazz. Fumio Karashima, Mitsuaki Katayama and Takeo Moriyama are also included to shed a little light on the shadowy world of Japanese Jazz.

These are only a few names of artists who made unique contributions to the jazz scene and made jazz an inextricable part of Japanese culture.

Here, we would like to introduce some iconic J-Jazz musicians you may prefer:

Popular Japanese Musicians

Sadao Watanabe
Terumasa Hino
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Masabumi Kikuchi
Yosuke Yamashita
Hideo Shiraki
Ryo Kawasaki
Masaru Imada
Ryo Fukui
Takeshi Inomata
Jiro Inagaki

and more...

Dig Deeper: Japanese Jazz Classics

Japanese Jazz
Hideo Shiraki / Plays Horace Silver (King, SKJ 1006)

Cover album of Horace Silver’s compositions by the jazz drummer Hideo Shiraki, entitled Plays Horace Silver was released in 1962.

Silver’s funky hard bop tunes such as “Senor Blues” and “Preacher” were played by Shiraki’s band members on the album.

Japanese Jazz
Yama & Jiro’s Wave / Girl Talk (Three Blind Mice, TBM-59)

In the past couple of decades, Three Blind Mice has amassed worldwide popularity.

Famous Japanese jazz pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto was accompanied by Tetsujiro Obara & Akira Daiyoshi on the album Girl Talk in 1975.

Yamamoto performs the standards gorgeously, fascinating listeners.

Japanese Jazz
Kimiko Kasai With Herbie Hancock / Butterfly (CBS/SONY, 25AP 1350)

Kimiko Kasai’s works with American legends are something else. She collaborated with famous American musicians such as Mal Waldron, Gil Evans, Oliver Nelson, Cedar Walton, etc.

In 1979, Kasai recorded her album Butterfly with the great Herbie Hancock. The album contained Hancock’s songs “Maiden Voyage”, “Tell Me A Bedtime Story”, as well as Stevie Wonder’s “As”.

The album is arguably Kasai’s most famous work.

Other albums you will enjoy...

Japanese Jazz
Hozan Yamamoto, Gary Peacock / Ginkai (Philips, FX-8509)

Japanese Jazz
Elvin Jones & Masabumi Kikuchi / Hollow Out (Philips, FX-8526)

Japanese Jazz
Jiro Inagaki / Jazz Rock Out (Columbia, JPS-5215)

Please have a listen to Japanese jazz if you haven't already. A different experience from any jazz you’ve heard before.

After your first listen on vinyl, you won't be able to stop digging deeper and deeper.

Experience a new record lifestyle with Face Records.