Polymath Tatsu Aoki celebrates his kanreki with a night of bass and drums | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Polymath Tatsu Aoki celebrates his kanreki with a night of bass and drums 

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click to enlarge Tatsu Aoki

Tatsu Aoki

courtesy the artist

No matter where you’re from, turning 60 feels significant, but in Japan they have a name for it. Kanreki signifies the start of a new cycle of life with your troubles and responsibilities forgotten. Celebrants often wear red—a color associated with youth—and traditionally they retire from adult household responsibility. Tatsu Aoki, who was born in Tokyo and moved to Chicago in 1977, put off his kanreki until he turned 61 this year, and he still shows no signs of slowing the pace of his busy lifestyle. The educator, musician, and filmmaker released two new albums this year, both of which feature him playing bass with a flexibly configured group called the Miyumi Project. Raw and Alive Volume II (Asian Improv) is a double live album by the full ensemble, which layers free-flowing woodwind solos over traditional taiko drum rhythms, while Reduction Ensemble (Asian Improv) is a quartet recording closer to the pancultural jazz of early-80s groups such as Codona or Griot Galaxy. Aoki’s kanreki is the theme of tonight’s concert, which is part of the annual winter solstice celebration organized by drummers Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang. In the first set Aoki, who also plays a traditional Japanese stringed instrument called the shamisen, will improvise with his hosts. During the second, Drake and Zerang will join Aoki in a lineup of the Miyumi Project that includes his frequent collaborators Mwata Bowden and Edward Wilkerson Jr. on reeds, as well as Aoki’s children Eigen, Kioto, and Miyumi (the ensemble’s namesake) on taiko drums.   v

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