Kawaguchi City, the 8th most-populous city in the Greater-Tokyo megalopolis (population 38 million), has been staging Jazz Festivals for the last 7 years. Originally an industrial/foundry town “where the furnaces glow” (キューポラのある街), it grew post-war to become a major industrial and densely-populated city. Annually, c.40,000 attend its two-day jazz event. In 2018, and with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics fast approaching, they felt it was time to “reach out”, and include overseas/expat artists in their production. Amphion’s Asia-Pacific office was passed the honour to produce this, and on September 16th 2018, a major event was staged in the Lilia Concert Hall – a beautiful 600-seat venue in Kawaguchi City – complete with a massive German pipe-organ.
Jazz in Japan is immensely popular, with many of the major cities from one end of the archipelago to the other staging annual events and attracting massive crowds. But what is a loudspeaker company doing producing Jazz shows?
Starting with our Founder Anssi Hyvonen, who established Amphion due to his deep love of music, and moving right through the team, most of the company are either professional musicians or engineers. Our Asia-Pacific representative is a Jazz/Soul man. So supporting this genre and project in Tokyo was an easy decision. Amphion makes products to both “Enjoy” music (Home Audio) and “Create” music (Pro-Audio). But we also believe we should “Support” music (Artists/Music-Creators). While Amphion’s primary purpose is to bring music into your home or studio, we believe that working closely with music creators, music performers, and music consumers keeps us grounded.
This is the 17th music event that Amphion has produced over the last 20 months in Japan, connecting us to our end-users and partners – both home and pro. And we plan on expanding our efforts into the classical world soon too.
The “Amphion Presents” section of the Kawaguchi Jazz Festival had an extraordinary line-up of musicians. The 17 performers represented 5 continents and produced a staggering 210min of music covering every Jazz style from Gospel to Modern Jazz. As well as involving expats who play in Japan’s major jazz circuit, we were fortunate to engage four overseas artists who travelled from New Orleans (USA), New Jersey (USA), Newcastle (AUS), and Newport (AUS) for this “new” show. The audience was totally stunned by the standard of these musicians – whose credits include Grammys, ARIAs, and other notable music awards.
Jazz/Soul Veteran and Keyboardist Philip Woo and his Band headlined this first “international artist” Kawaguchi jazz show. Philip has toured and recorded with so many of the world’s greatest entertainers: Roberta Flack, Whitney Houston, Kenny G, Grover Washington Jr, Cyndi Lauper, Roy Ayers, Ashford & Simpson, Patti Labelle, Maze, Deborah Harry, and has also appeared on TV with Stevie Wonder, BB King, Curtis Mayfield, James Ingram, Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Jermaine Jackson. And his band members also have a similar string of credits and music-pedigree.
A “piano-duel” by jazz-masters Tony Suggs (ex-Count Basie Orchestra) and Greg McKenzie (internationally-acclaimed performer) was yet another highlight of the event. Show-stopping music also came from our “Women In Jazz” – five powerful performers whose lives revolve around jazz. To Swinky, Shanti, Michiyo, Harumo, and Alice, we salute you! The late Aretha Franklin would have been so proud. The event was hosted by one of Japan’s most recognised voices/faces of TV/Radio “Stuart-O”, working with the very beautiful and notable local smooth-jazz saxophonist Michiyo who has backed many of Japan’s megastars.
Four very special artists made the long journey from the United States and Australia to Tokyo, and the audience was left spellbound by their music-craft. We were treated to a fabulous guitar-duo from “Down Under” – Mitch Cairns and Adam Miller – two of Australia’s finest musicians; New Jersey-based entertainer/vocalist Ty Stephens, whose performance credits read like a Who’s Who of Music, was simply sensational; and the super-talented bassist/vocalist from the “Big Easy” Roland Guerin (ex-Allen Toussaint band), whose presence underpinned the branding of the Kawaguchi Festival as “The New Orleans of the East” (Kawaguchi: Kawa “River” – Guchi “Mouth”) – as both cities share a common geographical feature.
Amphion was immensely proud to produce this event – in association with the Kawaguchi Jazz Festival Committee – including Ken Ito, whose great assistance and investment of people and funds made this all happen, and Nick Clegg of Sound Factory – our FOH engineer. This report, along with the photos contained, only hints at the raw power and glory of this show. Amphion plans to continue producing Jazz shows for Kawaguchi City because it’s about the “music”, and we as a company are all about the music. The artist line-up for the 2019 is already being touted, and we look forward to staging the 2020 Show in the Olympic year.
Photo Credits: Kousuke Funaya & Hiroaki Nagino
Supported by Amphion-Japan Distributors: MixWave Inc. (Pro-Audio) & Wefield (Home-Audio)
Philip Woo: Jazz/Soul/Blues Keyboardist, Band-leader (Seattle, USA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Swinky: Jazz, Soul, Gospel, R&B, Rock Singer-Songwriter (KENYA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Shanti: Singer, Lyricist, Composer (USA | Kanagawa, JAPAN)
Ashton Moore: Jazz/Soul Singer, Conductor, Teacher (Detroit, USA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Overseas Artists From New Orleans (USA), New Jersey (USA), Newcastle (AUS), and Newport (AUS) …
The “Amphion Presents” Show MCs + Steinway vs Bosendorfer Piano-Duel performers
michiyo (Michiyo Kitagawa): Smooth Jazz Saxophonist
Tony Suggs: ex- Count Basie Orchestra (Brooklyn, USA | Ibaraki, JAPAN)
Greg McKenzie: international jazz pianist (Los Angeles, USA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Amphion’s “Women in jazz”!
michiyo: Smooth Jazz Saxophonist (Tokyo, JAPAN)
Alice Nishimura: Singer, Guitarist (BRAZIL | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Shanti: Singer, Lyricist, Composer (USA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Swinky: Gospel, R&B, Jazz, Soul, Rock Singer (KENYA | Tokyo, JAPAN)
Harumo Imai: Jazz, Funk, Soul, Saxophonist (Tokyo, JAPAN)
… and the “engine room” of the festival …
Fumio “Hank” Nishiyama: live/studio guitarist: Blues, Soul, Jazz, Funk (Tokyo, JAPAN)
Harumo Imai: Jazz, Funk, Soul, R&B, Rock, Fusion sax player (Tokyo, JAPAN)
Gerald Painia: Drummer, Singer, Songwriter, Gospel Choir Dir.,(Yokohama, JAPAN | CA, USA)
Zak Croxall: Extraordinarily-gifted jazz, funk, soul bassist (Saitama, JAPAN | USA)
Nick Clegg: Keyboardist & Bassist, Studio/FOH Engineer (Tokyo, JAPAN | Manchester, UK)