Tatsu Aoki | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tatsu Aoki 

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TATSU AOKI

Tatsu Aoki stays busier than your garden-variety polymath: in addition to recording and performing regularly, the bassist teaches film production at the School of the Art Institute, and his organizing skills--put to good use booking the annual Asian American Jazz Festival and several other concert series--would put Martha Stewart to shame. And even within music, Aoki's range of activities--from ethnic-music ensembles to his Power Trio, starring AACM mainstay Mwata Bowden--boggles the listener's mind. (Aoki's newest recording, due this summer, furthers his interest in linking the Asian-American jazz movement with the AACM: it's a collection of bass duets with Malachi Favors of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.) But Aoki himself considers his unaccompanied music to be the main event. Despite the apparent limitations of the format, Aoki has released six solo bass albums; the most recent, Eigen (IEL), makes an excellent introduction. The solo-bass setting both challenges and showcases Aoki's yin-yang balance of power and delicacy, vinegar and sugar water, dark and lithe; he bows and plucks with a wide tonal palette and a keen ear for melodic development. Participating in Chicago's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, Aoki will play not only solo but also with guests on Asian drums (the Korean buk and Japanese taiko, or barrel drum). The show takes place against a projected backdrop of paintings by Amy Lee Segami, who uses an unusual acrylic-on-water technique, suminagashi, to combine ancient tradition and modern improvisation--in much the same proportion as Aoki's music. Saturday, 8 PM, theater, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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