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Australian Jazz at the Tokyo JAZZ Festival 2010

Tokyo International Forum
John McBeath

October 2010

Big enough to accommodate a five-storey building, the Tokyo International Forum Hall A, comfortably seats 5,000. The immense auditorium was an air-conditioned refuge from the daily mid-thirties temperature and high humidity outside. There were billboard-sized screens each side of the stage and subtle backdrop lighting drifted in pleasing pastel colours and oriental designs. On Friday's opening night of the Tokyo JAZZ Festival, the massive sound system played a recorded introduction with the force and dynamic quality of a live symphony.

On the previous evening, the Australian Embassy, a festival sponsor, launched a smaller introduction concert as part of its cultural relations program. This featured Sydney group The Mike Nock Trio, and The Mike Nock "Tokyo" BigSmallBand, adding trumpeter Phil Slater and saxophonist Matt Ottignon plus Japanese musicians Ken Ota on alto sax and trombonist Eijiro Nakagawa. The septet played arrangements of Nock originals demonstrating the universality of the jazz idiom where players without a common language can play cohesive music. Everyone soloed on Nock's funky tribute to US flautist Jeremy Steig who was in the audience, and the piece worked well, as it did again on September 4 (Sat), pleasing the casual crowd in the Forum's enormous courtyard.

Australian Jazz at the Tokyo JAZZ Festival 2010
Mike Nock
Australian Jazz at the Tokyo JAZZ Festival 2010
The Mike Nock Trio
Australian Jazz at the Tokyo JAZZ Festival 2010
The Mike Nock "Tokyo" BigSmallBand

Although Australian jazz is not widely known in Japan, there is a large general jazz following with the first Tokyo JAZZ Festival occurring in 2002 but without Australian participation. Since 2006, the Australian Embassy has been promoting Australian jazz and musicians at the festival, planning eventually for performances by Japanese players in Australia. The highly committed staff of the Embassy's Cultural program work to introduce many aspects of Australian culture to the Japanese and at this festival, in addition to the music there were opportunities to sample Australian wines and food at a well-attended marquee in the open courtyard of The Forum. Music from the stage in the courtyard was free and relayed over several huge screens where a total of 12,000 fans attended over three days. Paid indoor tickets totalled 14,000, and there were more than twenty Japanese business sponsors.

The Mike Nock Trio wound up their appearances in Japan with an Australian Embassy facilitated concert at Tokyo’s foremost jazz venue, the Shinjuku Pit Inn on 7 September. There was a small, but appreciative audience it's a tiny establishment as the trio expertly worked their way through several Nock originals and a few standards.

John McBeath traveled courtesy of the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Related Article

"Australian Jazz – An Arrangement Of Many Parts" by John McBeath

Recent Australian Jazz Performances in Japan