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Concert Wed May 07 2008

East Meets the Rest: Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project at Steppenwolf


Tatsu Aoki is one of Chicago's musical treasures hidden in plain sight. Born in Japan, he moved to the United States to pursue a career as a jazz musician and landed in Chicago, where has been an active participant ever since. In addition to his association with many AACM musicians, he has been instrumental in developing an Asian American jazz scene here in Chicago, which serves as an extended branch of the music's original home base of San Francisco. Aoki is not only a musician, also serving as an organizer in his role as Executive Director of Asian Improv Arts Midwest, an organization whose existence testifies to the diversity of Chicago's music scene.

So what is Asian American jazz? Well, as you might guess given the incredible diversity of music from the continent of Asia, it means different things to different people. In Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project, it includes a driving rhythmic foundation of taiko drumming, combined with Aoki's own hypnotic bass lines and unique compositional aesthetic. The results are nothing short of joyous and propulsive, and the element of jazz is introduced by the talented improvisers Aoki enlists in his ensemble. Aoki himself is the glue that holds it all together, a grounding element both through his bass playing and vision as a composer.

On Friday at Steppenwolf, Aoki will present an expanded version of his Miyumi Project. In addition to Miyumi regulars Mwata Bowden, Jeff Chan, Amy Homma, Hide Yoshihashi, Yoko Noge, Melody Takata and Joel Wanek, the Miyumi Project will also include the Japanese American Service Center (where Aoki teaches taiko and shamisen) taiko group Tsukasa Taiko, Chinatsu Nakano, Jonathan Chen, and Francis Wong. Francis Wong is particularly notable in the list of special guests, as a resident of San Francisco and one of the founding members of the Asian American jazz movement and a monster saxophonist.

What to expect? Thunderous taiko grooves, inspired improvisations, and a tightly tuned ensemble that expresses an Asian diasporic consciousness filtered through the techniques of African American jazz. This same ensemble played in Millennium Park last year to rave reviews, and every time I've seen the ensemble someone in the audience who's never seen them before walks out a believer.

Tatsu Aoki's Miyumi Project plays Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater, 1650 N. Halsted Street, Friday May 9th. Tickets are $40 and are available online or by calling 312-335-1650.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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