Press Profile:Umezu Kazutoki

Press Photo:Umezu Kazutoki(zip)

Umezu is one of the most important reed players in the world. He is not only a well-known jazz master, but also a great improvisor to collaborate with.

He works with many different kinds of music and dance performance.

He is always acquiring new sources for improvisation and composition. The one thing that does not change is the sound of his saxophone.

It's always clear, beautiful and strong. He may blow strong and speedy like a demon and then sometimes very humorous and then again sometimes melancholic like the blues or Japanese ENKA.

Most people who hear him perform get the feeling of Japanese soul.It's quite uncommon for one musician to have a flexible mind that can make music with many different types of musicians, and still be able to keep his own style. This may be a contradiction for most musicians, but in the music of Kazutoki Umezu, flexibility and consistency do not exclude each other.

Umezu Kazutoki (Alto sax ,Soprano sax ,Clarinet ,Bass Clarinet)

Born 1949 in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.

and began studying music from an early age. While still attending Kunitachi Music College he formed first band "Seikatsu Kojo Iinkai". In 1974 he relocated to New York and began playing with musicians like Lester Bowie, Oliver Lake, Sunny Murray and David Murray,and made first recording" Seikatsu Kojo Iinkai"at1975.

When he returned to Japan in 1976 he reformed "Seikatsu Kojou Iinakai Orchestra", and made two albums. He continued however to explore various types of music, and in 1980 also began playing with the well known rock band Kiyoshiro Imawano's "RC Succession".

In 1981 he began recording under the name "Doctor Umezu Band", and recorded eight albums , the last of which in 1989. As the gdoctorh title suggests that Umezu is something of an academic, but plays by the code that rules are made to be broken, and part of what makes him popular is his freedom of thought and sense of humor.

During the 80fs Umezu played jazz festivals and gigs in places all over the world, and sometimes played with internationally known figures such as John Zorn and Tom Cora. In 1988 he also recorded as "DIVA", in a band with three women. In 1989 he formed a seven member band called "Shakushain", named after a legendary Ainu (indigenous Japanese) hero, with whom he recorded two albums. He also maintained membership in other groups, including Third Person, a group which also includes Tom Cora and Samm Bennett, who were also part of his New York based groups "Eclectism" and "First Deserter", groups which also included amongst heir ranks Marc Ribot, Dougie Browne, Wayne Horvitz and Curtis Fowlkes.

In the 1990fs Umezu became interested in Klezmer music, and at one time maintained an eighteen member group called Betsuni Nanmo Klezmer. He has also recorded four albums of Klezmer music.Now he has small Klezmer style band called " Komatcha Klezmer " since 1995.

While his list of official bands is quite long, in addition he has also sat in or played short term with many other musicians, including B.B. King, Ian Dury "Block heads", Barre Phillips, Peter Brotzman, Don Byron, as well as with legendary Japanese jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita, guitarist Yoshihide Otomo, "Asian Fantasy Orchestra" taiko group "Kodo" and "Ondeko-za", and many dancers like Kazuo Ohno,Min Tanaka and Kazunori Kumagai.

Currently one of his active groups is "Kazutoki Umezu KIKI Band", a group that mixes elements of Progressive rock and jazz music, and have toured in Africa,Europe,Asia and North America. This year, KIKI BAND will play at Kuala Lumpur International Jazz Festival in May, Zappanale music festival in Germany, August, and then they have Japan tour with their new release album.