Takaaki Otomo Celebrates The Release Of His New CD New Kid In Town
Composer Bernard Hoffer first heard jazz pianist Takaaki Otomo at a restaurant in New York and was impressed by his musicality, dynamic sensitivity, and beautiful harmonic sense. With bass player Noriko Ueda and drummer Jared Schonig, Takaaki selected five originals, four jazz standards plus one Broadway show tune and two novelties from Gustav Holst's The Planets for this recording. Beginning his training as a classical pianist Takaaki switched to jazz when he was a teenager and won first prize in a jazz competition in Japan in 2007. He moved to New York City in 2014. Originally from Japan Noriko Ueda began playing the electric bass, then switching to upright bass at age 18. She is a graduation of the Berklee College of Music where she majored in jazz composition. She has her own trio and quartet and has performed at the Blue Note Jazz Club. She won the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize in 2002. Hailing from Los Angeles, drummer Jared Schonig studied at Eastman where he won seven Downbeat Student Music Awards. A favorite among vocalists, Schonig tours with Grammy Award-winners Kurt Ellling and The New York Voices. He is in demand as a drummer for studio recordings and session work.
Born and raised in Kobe, Japan, Takaaki Otomo started the classical piano at the age of five.When he was 15 years old, he changed to jazz music, listening to the music of Oscar Peterson. He was taught by the pianist, Tadao Kitano, who is a famous music teacher in Kobe. In 2007, he won first prize in a jazz competition in Kobe. He belongs to the group Gingerbread Boys, which plays at a number of venues in Kansai area. In 2014, he moved to New York City.
He has released a number of CDs as a leader and sideman as well. In 2008 his first CD Nightmare was released with Otomo as leader. During his career in Japan, he has performed with Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Lewis Nash.
He has been influenced by Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Fred Hersch and Brad Mehldau.
A pianist friend commented that only in New York can you find a local restaurant that serves elegant food and elegant jazz. It was in that venue that I first heard Takaaki play. Even on his abbreviated keyboard I could sense his musicality, his dynamic sensitivity, and beautiful harmonic sense.
That first night I thought this could make a fine trio recording with Noriko Ueda on bass. What I learned later, when he was on a grand piano, was his technical proficiency. To complete the trio Noriko introduced me to Jared Schonig, who as it turned out attended the same school (Eastman) as I did.
We selected five originals, four jazz standards, plus one Broadway show tune (Takaakiís suggestion) and two Novelties from Gustav Holstís The Planets.
The originals include two exquisite tunes by Takaaki, a beautiful LullWater by Noriko, and two of my tunes written for this project. I first heard them play Brubeckís Your Own Sweet Way in the club and loved the way they played it. For an up tempo, Neil Heftiís Repetition though we miss Charlie Parkerís great solo. I thought John Lewisís Django deserved another hearing, and, because we needed something languid, Thad Jonesís lovely To You, which works quite well as a trio, though sans Thadís beautiful orchestral textures.
At the time of putting this project together the film The Martian was a big hit in theaters, which gave me the idea to use Holst. What was interesting, was that Holstís harmonies gave us a fresh aspect when used to play jazz upon them.
Track listing w/ track time
1. Evening Glow 6:23 Takaaki Otomo
2. New Kid In Town 5:00 Bernard Hofer
3. Django 5:13 John Lewis, arr. Bernard Hofer
4. LullWater 6:06 Noriko Ueda
5. Repetition 5:22 Neil Hefti, trans. Bernard Hofer
6. People 5:01 Jule Styne/Bob Merrill, arr. Bernard Hofer
7. Mars 5:57 Gustav Holst, arr. Bernard Hofer
8. Grandmaís Song 4:09 Takaaki Otomo
9. In Your Own Sweet Way 7:03 Dave Brubeck
10. To You 6:01 Thad Jones, trans. Bernard Hofer
11. Rush Hour 3:31 Bernard Hofer
12. Venus 5:09 Gustav Holst, arr. Bernard Hofer
Takaaki Otomo Celebrates The Release Of His New CD New Kid In Town Thursday, May 31st Jazz at Kitano Sets 8 & 10pm