Jazzing up Super Japan

Eric Miyashiro is the music director of the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra (above).
Eric Miyashiro is the music director of the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra (above).PHOTO: ESPLANADE
Eric Miyashiro (above) is the music director of the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra.
Eric Miyashiro (above) is the music director of the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra.PHOTO: ESPLANADE

The Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra will be performing at Esplanade's Japanese festival of arts

You will not miss Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra's music director and trumpeter Eric Miyashiro when he performs on stage - he is the burly guy with the distinctive shock of long, blonde hair.

His trademark looks are the result of yummy Japanese food and a hair salon accident, he tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Tokyo.

Miyashiro, who was born and raised in Hawaii but now lives in Tokyo, says with a laugh: "When I moved to Japan, the food was so good, I gained a lot of weight.

"The hair thing, that was just by accident. I was at a beauty salon and tried to just lighten my hair a little bit and it got way overdone and I couldn't go back afterwards."

The 53-year-old and Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra will perform at the Esplanade Concert Hall tomorrow, a show that is part of Super Japan - Japanese Festival Of Arts 2016.

It is not his first time here - he played the trumpet for acclaimed Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone when the latter performed a sold- out show at the same venue for the Mosaic Music Festival in 2012.

  • BOOK IT /BLUE NOTE TOKYO ALL-STAR JAZZ ORCHESTRA(JAPAN)

  • WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Tomorrow, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $48to$88from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

He recalls: "I had a gig in Seattle, Washington, then flew in directly to Singapore. I was in Singapore for only three days, but I remember everything was beautiful. The food was great, the people were friendly, the audience was energetic and very receptive. I had a really great time."

Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra's brand of big band jazz has been making the rounds since it was formed by Japan's most established jazz club, Blue Note Tokyo, in 2011. The 18-member ensemble has performed in prominent festivals such as the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia, as well as shows with international jazz greats such as guitarist Pat Metheny.

Miyashiro describes his role of director as "a very challenging task", but one that is "very rewarding".

"If you imagine a band full of stars, prima donnas, and they have their own way of doing things - sometimes it's difficult to try to get everybody into one direction of performance, but I've known these people for so long and most of us have been together seven years now, I think. We have mutual respect for each other, so that part is not so difficult."

For the Singapore show, the orchestra will be joined by guest vocalists Japanese singer-songwriter Asako Toki and home-grown crooner Nathan Hartono.

Miyashiro, who also plays with his own group, EM band, and conducts music clinics, workshops and classes around the world, says of Hartono: "He's got such a beautiful voice and this feel... I think it's going to be a great combination."

Their collaboration will include covers such as Move Over, a tune by late 1960s icon Janis Joplin, as well as Reasons, a song by R&B/soul/ funk stalwarts Earth, Wind & Fire.

Miyashiro is looking forward to his return to Singapore and promises a "wonderful" show.

"The music is really like a communication of the musician's interpretation on a stage. You want to have people not just listen to the music, but also be involved emotionally."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Jazzing up Super Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe