March 31, 2013

CMW interview with Yuichiro Tokuda

It was the second time for Japanese jazz artist,  Yuichiro Tokuda to participate in Canadian Music Week with his band Ralyzzdig." There were lots of people came to see our show last night thanks to Jazz FM being a sponsor this year." Tokuda performed at Court House two nights in row as a part of the Jazz festival showcase during CMW and it seems like he had a blast. (I was so bummed that I missed it...) Tokuda kindly sent me the video of their performance that night. 

This Japanese jazz quintet, Ralyzzdig is the super group of Japanese Jazz scene as many of them are internationally recognized after winning several awards in the past. The band name, Ralyzzdig is a made up word pulled together by Tokuda. "Ralyzzdig contains English words of "Ray" "Lyric", "Jazz" and "Dig”. The name was created with the wish to discover a flash of lyrical jazz throughout their music."

Ralyzzdig has a full length album that is on the horizon, Crossing Colours is now set to be released on March 27th. (Released this week!)  "I started writing songs after last year's Canadian Music Week. Before that, we had an opportunity to play in China and Malaysia and came to Canada. The more chances that we had played overseas, the more I started thinking that I would like to craft songs based on what I gained though people I met from different cultures. Colours in this context means races and wanted to make a bridge made of music to cross over the difference. We will always have a difference, but we can still have the same ground somewhat. That was what I was seeking to create with our music." 

There is a cover of Japanese traditional child song, Aka Tombo (red dragonfly) in the album. The song is a fresher version of the traditional style yet it has the scent of nostalgia. "I have roots in Okinoerabujima, Kagoshima (an island located near southern part of Japan.)  I started writing songs about the place and also arranged Japanese folk songs in the past. (Note: Okinawa Island and southern islands are known for their unique traditional folk styles.) It has such a beautiful melody line to it. I don't just pick up any songs to cover." Another song off the album, Hamabe No Uta, (Song of the seashore ) is covered for the same reason. This song also has a special place in Tokuda's heart. "This song is for those who suffered from the huge earthquake Fukushima, 2 years ago. In May of 2011, we first visited Malaysia and it was just 2 months after the earthquake and we weren't sure if we could make it. So when we were on the stage we performed this song thinking of Japan. We were performing this song prior to the earthquake, but I feel like there is a special meaning to this song when we perform it. This Hamabe No Uta is from Tohoku region, (Northern part of Japan which was worst hit by the earthquake.) The composer was from Akita. (It is located in the same region of Fukushima in Japan.) He wrote the song for being nostalgic after looking at the beaches. I've volunteered in Tohoku region in the past and played this song so many times."

The title song, Crossing Colours has two versions on the album, Crossing Colours-Element and Crossing Colours-Harmony. The first one focuses more on percussive melodies whereas the latter has the resonant piano tunes. The reason that he put two arrangements of one song in the album is the remake they've worked on. "We had to record Crossing Colours three times. I felt like the theme of the song was very big and I couldn't finalize the form of the song for a long time. When we first recorded, it sounded good, but it wasn't great enough to convince me. So we recorded it again, which is the Crossing Colours-Harmony. At last, when we recorded the last version of the song, it became Crossing Colours-Element. The tune has changed from major to minor and the image of the song has drastically changed."

There is another cover song in the album, Kiseki, miracle. by Japanese pop group, GReeeeN. "The reason behind it was 4-5 years ago, we visited a junior high school in a very small town, which was about to close down and played for the graduation ceremony. We were requested by the students to play one of the popular songs then and that as this song. I wanted to show them what a Jazz band really is throughout the song. We didn't play it for a long time but just around a year ago, we started playing the song again, and started feeling like the song fit the band really well, then we decided to play it again."

With this album, Tokuda will continue touring Japan and Asian counties in this spring. But he didn't forget about the Canuck fans. "Thank you very much for your support and I really would like to come to my shows next time that I come to Toronto and listen to my new album.”

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