Did you know that it’s Jazz Week in Boston? It’s a wonderful chance to hear live jazz in familiar and unfamiliar venues. Yesterday, Yoko performed solo piano at South Station. Friday night, she’ll be at Sushi Island in Wakefield. The Trio will be playing this Saturday at Les Zygomates in the Leather District.
Episode five of Ken Burns’s JAZZ touches on many of the themes of the previous episode, with reminders that are particularly resonant right now: music brings people together and uplifts the spirit. Whether it was dancing to a swinging big band, or dreaming to a blues melody, Americans during the Great Depression found comfort in jazz. Also around that time, well-known jazz acts started playing on stages beyond just nightclubs and bars. Teenage fans who cherished their records flocked to these all-ages venues to see their idols live for the first time. (By the way, both Les Zygomates and Ryles Jazz Club are all ages, as well as many of the other venues the Yoko Miwa Trio plays).
This episode focuses on the 1930′s, the era of swing. One of the criticisms commonly leveled at Burns’s JAZZ series is that it focuses too much on the heydays of swing and bebop, skimming over more recent decades. This episode does spend a lot of time on a short span of years, It also provides good examples of one of my own concerns with the series. While the narration and readings of primary sources give a nuanced overview of the race politics associated with jazz, many of the interviews grossly oversimplify the same issues.
Despite these concerns, I recommend episode five, because it’s one of the best yet for visuals, having advanced into an era when there is plenty of film footage available from the time. The footage of the record production process near the beginning is especially worth a view. The episode is also great for interviews with musicians still alive at the time (who have since passed), including Artie Shaw, Harry “Sweets” Edison, and Dave Brubeck.
Clarinetist and band leader Artie Shaw spoke to what he felt jazz means when he said of Glen Miller, “The biggest problem: his band never made a mistake. And that’s one of the things wrong, because if you don’t ever make a mistake, you’re not trying. You’re not playing at the edge of your ability. You’re playing safely, within limits, and you know what you can do, and it sounds after a while extremely boring.”
We sincerely hope that you are all doing well after last week’s troubling events. We also want to thank everyone who came to Regattabar last week for being an amazing audience. We love you, Boston.
I was walking down State Street on Tuesday when I heard a local, standing on a stoop taking a cigarette break, shouting at a man in a Boston Marathon jacket. The runner paused, confused – locals don’t usually call out at tourists unless something’s wrong.
“Did you run, man?” said the local.
“God bless you, man,” said the local, with emotion in his voice.
This could have happened any year. The Marathon is a big deal in Boston, and many people have a lot of respect for the athletes who run it. But this conversation happened this year, and it was clear from the tone the local was thinking of the explosions, and showing support.
Boston feels like a family right now.
We will be going on with the concert at Regattabar tonight as planned. We hope to see you there, but more importantly, we hope that you and yours are safe and well.
A night out listening to live music is a great way to celebrate a special occasion or just the little things in life, and next week, you can see the Yoko Miwa Trio at The Regattabar in Cambridge – 7:30 pm, Thursday, April 18. If you don’t have your tickets yet, you can get them here.
If you don’t have a college acceptance, birthday, anniversary, promotion, or marathon success to toast to at the moment… here are some ideas for what to celebrate:
Someone else’s birthday! Haley Mills of Parent Trap fame, for example, was born on April 18. Or, you could treat a friend to the show.
If you’re a student or member of the Japanese Association of Greater Boston or the Japan Society of Boston, there are discounts available for your show tickets.
In Japan, April 18 is “Invention Day,” honoring the country’s first patent law.
On April 18 in 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes began the famous “midnight ride,” warning Patriots that British Regulars were on their way to capture Patriot leaders. The third “midnight” rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott, joined them at one or two in the morning, after visiting his fiancee. The next day, the American Revolution began.
The weather forecast for Boston is in the 50s and 60s all this coming week. Hello Spring!
Are you subscribed to the Yoko Miwa Trio’s Youtube channel? Half a dozen new videos from the November 2012 performance at Scullers Jazz Club went up this week. The videos include covers of artists from Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young to Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner as well as one of Yoko’s original compositions, Flood of Tears.
A limited number of copies of the Trio’s album Act Naturally, released last summer on the Japanese label JVC Victor Entertainment, will be available for purchase at the April 18 show at Regattabar. That show is only two weeks away, so get your tickets now!
Not sure you’re coming to the show? Below are some videos that might change your mind.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart — this song is on Act Naturally
For most of us, the next couple of weeks will bring Easter or Passover, April Fool’s Day, and tax day… events that happen every year. However, for many would-be college and music conservatory students, the next few weeks could be life-changing. At Berklee College of Music, applicants will find out whether they have been accepted by the end of this month! Students will find out whether they have been accepted by the end of March. In addition to being the world’s largest independent music school, Berklee is near and dear to the Yoko Miwa Trio’s hearts. Yoko and Scott both attended Berklee, and Yoko is currently an Assistant Professor there.
One of the most important and nervewracking parts of the Berklee admissions process is the live audition. Auditions take place around the world. They are fifteen minutes long and can include playing a prepared piece, an improvisation section, sight-reading music, and ear training exercises. The school’s website reminds students that they aren’t expected to be perfect at everything, and also reminds them that the interview is just as important a part of the application process!
In the fall, students will arrive in Boston to start their Berklee adventure. They can study performance, jazz composition, music therapy, film scoring… for many young musicians, the long list of possibilities must seem like paradise. All majors at Berklee require at least four semesters of private music instruction, and students who choose the performance major take eight. Piano students have another audition the first week of school – this one, to match them with an instructor who is a good fit for them. Yoko is one of those instructors: rather than teaching classes, she has twenty-five students who take one-on-one piano lessons with her. On her own faculty page on the Berklee website, Yoko tells students, “No matter what style of music you’re into, the one thing that unifies all of us is our love for music. You are here because music is your life!”
The fourth episode of Ken Burns’ documentary JAZZ begins with the stock market crash of 1929. Jobs were lost, fortunes were lost, and the glitz and glamor of the of the roaring twenties was suddenly very far in the past. The Jazz Age ended when the Great Depression began, but jazz did not. This episode shows how “Jazz would be called upon to lift the spirits and raise the morale of a frightened country.”
Like in so many other eras, people found refuge and joy in music. New York’s popular Savoy Ballroom employed two bands at once so the music never stopped, and the floor was so warn from dancing it had to be replaced every two years. Louis Armstrong played his first gig for a White audience, in the pit for Broadway’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, and audiences called for him to get up onstage. Record companies suffered from hard economic times, but new music was alive, and new audiences listened for free on the radio.
Musician Matt Glaser (who is a colleague of Yoko’s at Berklee College) said of Armstrong’s playing, “This was a new way to experience the modern world and all its hectic movement: just relaxation and freedom. Jazz has been dealing with this concept since Louis made this record, and still to this day.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Music helps us through the problems of every day, whether it’s disturbing events on the news or being late for work and stuck on a jam-packed subway train that isn’t moving. Whether you are listening through headphones throughout your busy day or unwinding by seeing a show, we hope the driving chords and reflective melody of “The Day We Said Goodbye,” or the sparkling trills of “Mr. B.G.,” help you feel the same way, soaring over the hectic parts of life.
Happy Spring, and remember to get your tickets for the Yoko Miwa Trio’s April 18 show at The Regattabar.
No, it’s not the Head of the Charles rowing regatta. Regattabar is the musical heart of the Charles Hotel, and the jazz soul of Harvard Square.
The Yoko Miwa Trio will be performing at Regattabar in Cambridge, MA, Thursday, April 18, at 7:30pm. Regattabar has been named one of the “Best of Boston” by Boston Magazine thirteen times, and they are also home to a stunning annual jazz festival.
Considered by many to be one of Boston’s premier jazz venues, largely because of their ability to attract big-name musicians from around the world, Regattabar can also be a hot spot to catch up-and-coming jazz acts. Regattabar is on the third floor of the Charles Hotel, transforming what could have been a conference room into a special place for amazing music. Regular customers say that while there isn’t a bad seat in the house, there are good seats and then great seats, and you’ll want to buy tickets with your friends to sit together – a good incentive to get your tickets early!
Regattabar is closer than you might think to Harvard Square, just a few blocks away. If you want to take the T, take Brattle Street to Elliot Street and you’ll find the Charles Hotel on the corner of Elliot and Bennett. Because it’s so close to Harvard Square, you have all kinds of options for dining or a drink before the show. Both of the restaurants in the Charles Hotel, cozy Henrietta’s Table and swanky Rialto, offer discounts to Regattabar ticket holders, and there are also drinks and light fare at the venue.
The third episode delves into the Harlem Renaissance, in which culture blossomed in the New York City neighborhood. Mostly Black musicians entertained Blacks and Whites alike in separate venues in Harlem’s heavily segregated speakeasies. One of the most famous music venues was The Cotton Club, and it was a jazz musician’s dream to play there. Duke Ellington and his band secured a job playing there on a regular basis, after a four-year gig at the Kentucky Club. Playing the Cotton Club was widely regarded as the point Ellington went from being a rising star to the brightest star on the scene at the time. The Cotton Club is also the namesake of a venue the Yoko Miwa Trio has played in Tokyo! Just like the Yoko Miwa Trio’s residencies with Les Zygomates and Ryles Jazz Club, Ellington’s relationship with the original Cotton Club was fruitful for the musician, the venue, and the loyal fans.
The Yoko Miwa Trio on stage at the Cotton Club in Tokyo.
Another feature of 1920′s jazz was that music recording was continuing to expand. As one of the featured speakers in the series explained, the Jazz Age and the advent of recording coincided in a way that meant that improvisation was documented and respected like it never had been. “Improvisation, of course, exists before jazz. Beethoven was a celebrated improviser… but there was no way to document it.” Jazz records showed that “An improvisation can be just as coherent, imaginative, emotionally satisfying, and durable as a written piece of music.” Records also helped spread the jazz craze to Europe, and soon, jazz became a staple of European nightlife, although many of the most famous performers were American. Some, like the singer Josephine Baker, moved overseas permanently. Many White Europeans treated jazz as exotic, finding its rhythms sexy but also primitive and savage. One thing was for sure, though, and that was that people loved the music.
If you love good music, too, be sure to get your tickets for the Yoko Miwa Trio’s April 18 show at The Regattabar.
On Thursday, April 18, the Yoko Miwa Trio will be performing at Regattabar in Cambridge, MA.
If you want to know more about the venue, stay tuned for an upcoming blog post, but to really get the feel of the place, this video shows moments from the trio’s past performances at Regattabar.
If the video got you excited for the real thing, don’t worry, April’s right around the corner. The April 18 show will be at 7:30 pm at Regattabar at the Charles Hotel, One Bennett Street, Cambridge MA. Tickets are $20, buy yours online or call 617-395-7757.