Japanese Jazz Violin Summit and Cultural Exchange

Christian’s visit to Japan in November 2012 made waves in the jazz and string playing communities as he taught his curriculum for string players and performed several concerts across the country during 7 days. “It was an amazing cross cultural exchange,” says Chris, referring to the culmination of a decade of work since founding the annual week-long “Creative Strings Workshop” in Columbus, Ohio.

“Throughout several years, we have always had a strong presence from Japanese participants at the Creative Strings Workshop (in the U.S.). I’ve made several trips to Japan, but this particular tour, packed wall-to-wall with workshops and concerts, was a real breakthrough. It appears that jazz violin in Japan is gaining momentum!”

 

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Christian and Shiro Sadamura lead a band in Shin-Yokohama

“Because of the level of organization as well as the quality of collaborators, this recent visit made a huge impact in the community of music educators and string players in Japan. By working with Toshihiro Nakanishi (the most famous pioneer of electric violin in Japan), Sotaro Kitakoko (a young rising star jazz violinist and teacher), Tomoko Akaboshi (violinist, translator, promoter), and the Yamaha Corporation of Japan (makers of the Silent Electric Strings and longtime sponsors of Chris’ work in education), we were able to reach an influential sector of the string playing community through intensive, intimate workshops that provided jamming and performance opportunities for the participants. This model of workshop shares the ‘hands-on’ aspect of my annual Creative Strings Workshop in Columbus.”

 

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Happy workshop participants pose following third night in Hamamatsu (left). Workshop participants perform live outdoors with rhythm section (right).

Three full days of workshops in Hamamatsu, facilitated by Hiroshi Nakaya and the Yamaha Corporation of Japan, targeted amateur adult string players. Over 20 violinists/violists had the opportunity to perform live following the intensive series of workshops taught by both Christian (translated by Tomoko Akaboshi) and Sotaro Kitatoko. The outdoor public live performance included a rhythm section and everyone was able to take an improvised solo. “The amateurs did an amazing job of stepping up to the plate and overcoming any kind of nervousness. It was great to see their satisfaction and excitement when the crowd responded to their solos.”

 

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Hamamatsu with Yamaha – Christian and Sotaro Kitatoko perform (left) and Christian works with adult students (right).

The night prior to this performance featured a jam at a local club, and after Christian’s performance as special guest of the Tokyo Battle Big Band for the Yamaha Jazz Festival, he played an encore show with Sotaro Kitakoko’s for a final “hang” in Hamamatsu. Christian has inspired many fans to seek violin teachers at takelessons.com and many other teaching institutions.

Highlights included:

1) A visit of the Yamaha factory where participants were shown how Yamaha’s team of workers carefully constructs the Silent Electric Strings, acoustic strings, and more

2) Masterclasses (ensemble and solo)

3) Lecture demo covering amplified strings technology, effects, looping, and more

4) Interactive clinics covering harmony, improvisation, stylistic conventions of jazz, rock, and other fiddle styles

Below are pics of the performance (for a packed 2,500 seat hall!) at the Yamaha Jazz Festival in Hamamatsu; Chris was a featured soloist with the Tokyo Battle Big Band.

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Following the visit in Hamamatsu, Christian moved to Tokyo for another three full days of intensive workshops facilitated by Tomoko Akaboshi. These workshops targeted professional string players, many of which made up some of the elite freelance classical, recording, and “creative string players” from the Tokyo, Japan violin scene. Over 20 people participated in the intensive sessions, where Chris covered an array of topics from his method including amplified strings technology, creative “non-tonal” structures for improvisation, modal improvisation, applying harmony on bowed string instruments, chord tone-based improvisation, scale pairs, chord pairs, extended techniques, accompanimental strategies, and coaching for string ensembles working off of the charts based on Christian and Billy Contreras’ album, “Jazz Fiddle Revolution.”

“The Tokyo workshops covered tons of information, and the players that attended were top level classical pros as well as string players who have been studying improvised music for several years. I could tell that the impact made here is really going to spread through these influential players into the music scene at large in Japan. It’s exciting to see jazz violin in Japan to be growing!”

Major highlights during the Tokyo workshop included the presence of both Sotaro Kitatoko and Toshihiro Nakanishi. Kitatoko’s very successful approach to teaching jazz violin in Japan based largely on utilizing melodic vocabulary provided an excellent counterpoint to Chris’ teaching method throughout his Japan visit. Nakanishi gave his blessing to the brand new Japanese translation of Christian’s “Jazz Violin Harmony Handbook.”

Mr. Nakanishi and Mr. Kitatoko both joined Christian as guests of his successful concert at “B Flat Akasaka” during the second night in Tokyo. Following the first day in Tokyo, Chris was whisked away to Shin-Yokohama to play a double violin and rhythm section concert with the amazing modern jazz electric violinist, Shiro Sadamura.

The third night, following a dinner with the workshop participants, Christian, Tomoko, and Sotaro all joined Mr. Nakanishi for a visit to his house and a nearby favorite restaurant.

 

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With Tomoko Akaboshi and friends after Christian’s show at “B Flat” in Tokyo (left)

Christian, Misuzu, and Shiro Sadamura (top right)

Sotaro Kitatoko, Toshihiro Nakanishi,Chris, and the “A-List” Tokyo rhythm section after their concert at “B Flat”  (bottom right)

 

 

 

 

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