Kazutoki Umezu Profile

Last Update: 2/2/2003

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

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 performances.

He is always learning new material 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 blows it strong and speedy like a devil and then sometimes very humorous and then again sometimes melancholy 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 both the ability to have a flexible mind to make music with many different types of musicians and to keep his own style. These things seem very opposite but in the music of Kazutoki Umezu, flexibility and consistency do not contradict.

Kazutoki Umezu

Born 1949 in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.

Umezu debuted while still a student at Kunitachi Music College as his own band "SEIKATSU KOJOU IINKAI".

Active in new jazz movement in "Studio We ", "Studio Rivbea" and "Ali's Alley "in New York City, 1974 through 1975.
He played with "TED DANIEL'S THIRD WORLD ENERGY ENSEMBLE""SUNNY MURRAY TRIO""THE ABORIGINAL MUSIC SOCIETY"and had many sessions with musicians ,like Lester Bowie,Olu Dara,Joe Bowie,Oliver Lake,David Murray,William Parker,Rashid Ali.

Upon return to Japan, formed the immensely popular"SEIKATSU KOJOU IINKAI ORCHESTRA". They made 2 records.

In 1980, participated in the Donau Eschingen Music Festival with pianist Yoriyuki Harada and started to play with the rock band RC Succession.

From 1981 for a period of seven years, toured Japan and Europe extensively with "DOCTOR UMEZU BAND". They performed twice in Moers Jazz Festival.They made 8 records in 8 years.

From the middle of 80th he has been playing at "Knitting Factory" in New York,with musicians in NY like John Zorn,George rewis,Tom Cora.

Forms the band "DIVA" with three women in 1988, which disbanded after one year.They made 1 cd.

From 1989 to 1997, Umezu formed the seven-member "SHAKUSHAIN" which takes its name from a legendary Ainu hero. They were touring in Japan and made 2cds..

Since 1990, has toured for four consecutive years as the third member with "THIRD PERSON" with Tom Cora and Samm Bennett. Made 2cds.

And in those days he also formed bands in NY, one was "ECLECTICISM" with Marc Ribot,Curtis Fowlkes,Brad Jones,Samm Bennett and Dougie Bowne.Another is called "First Deserter" with Tom Cora,Wayne Horvitz,Marc Ribot and Samm Bennett.Made1cd each.

Formed a eighteen-member klezmer band, the only one in Japan, "BETSUNI NANMO KLEZMER" in 1992,and formed small klezmer,gipsy band "KOMTCHA KLEZMER" in 1995. 3cds for "BETSUNI NANMO KLEZMER" ,1cd for "KOMTCHA KLEZMER".

In 1998,he was invited from Ian Dury to have tour in England as a member of Ian Dury & Blockheads.

In 1999, he became a member of the saxophone sextet " The Six Winds" formed by Ad Peijinenburg ,br.sax player in Holland with Andrew white,Mariette Rouppe van der Voort, Dies Le Duc and Klaas Hekman. They toured 2 times 1999 & 2002 in Europe and 2002 in Japan. 1 cd was released and next one will be coming 2003.

He recently formed the unique band "KAZUTOKI UMEZU "KIKI" BAND" in 1999, which blends elements of middle Eastern music, rock and jazz.They toured in Africa @1999 and in Paris & Kolon and Singapol & Kuala Lumpur 2002. Now you can find 3cds.

"KAZUTOKI UMEZU "KIKI" BAND""KOMTCHA KLEZMER" " The Six Winds""BETSUNI NANMO KLEZMER" projects are currently ongoing and active.

In addition to pursuing his own projects, Umezu continues to participate in those of others both in Japan and overseas with jazz or improvisation artists such as Yosuke Yamashita,Koichi Makigami, Yoshihide Otomo, Eastasia orchestra, Mal Waldoron, David Murray, Lester Bowie, Barre Phillips, Peter Brotzman,Carlo Actis Dato. He also enjoys musical relationships with leaders of the New York improvisational music scene such as John Zorn, Ned Rothenberg, Anthony Coleman, George Lewis, Fred Frith ,Marc Ribot ,Frank London,Don Byron,David Krakauer, Kevin Norton, Mark Stewart and Wayne Horvitz, often making appearances with them at the Knitting Factory in New York.

Outside of jazz and improvisation,recently he played with Fanfare Ciocarlia ; and he has played blues with B.B. King, Bernard Purdie; rock with Ian Dury &Blockheads, RC Succession, Hikasu; Rumba with Roby Ameen, El Negro Horacio Hernandez; traditional Japanese music with Michihiro Sato; Okinawan Island fork with Tetsuhiro Daiku; Taiko with KODO, Leonard Eto, Eitetsu Hayashi; Korean shamanist music with Kim Suk Chul, Kim Yong Taek; music for dance with Saburo Teshigawara; Butoh with Touru Iwashita ( Sankai-juku ),Koji Motoki; and indication of the musical scope that he covers, as well as his energetic pursuit of unrestricted collaborations with other music and musicians.

He has also completed the sixth of his yearly "OHSHIGOTO" session of consecutive live shows, the "collective edition" of his such work with others. Over this period of 20 straight days, he played everyday different set with 70 different musicians, the event ending in tremendous success.

He has produced events and festivals at Club Citta Kawasaki such as "SHICHITEN-BATTOU" and "Cabaret OHBUROSHIKI", and has been one of leading music director for "ASIAN FANTASY" held at Theater Cocoon, which explores new directions in music with musicians from all over Asia.

Recording works of solo projects and projects lead by Umezu total 33.

Among recent such works are

'02"Land Dizzy"with KIKI Band
'02"Greeting from Africa" with KIKI Band
'01"KIKI" with KIKI Band
'01"Komathakure" with Komatha Klezmer
'00"Wake up with the birds" with Carlo Actis Dato
'00"Pandora's Cocktail" with Marc Ribot,Brad Jones and Kenny Wollesen
'99"Igol's La ment"with Shin-Ookubo Gentlemen
'98"Number 6" with The Six Winds
'97"Desert in a hand" with Shakushain
'96"Ahiru""Waltz" with Btsuni nanmo klezmer
'95"Lucky Water" with THIRD PERSON
'95 "FIRST DESERTER" with Marc Ribot, Wayne Horvitz, Tome Cora and Samm Bennette
'94 "OMEDETO" with Btsuni nanmo klezmer
'93 "ECLECTICISM" recorded live at Knitting Factory with Marc Ribot and other musicians
'92 "OHZAPPA" with Shakushain
'92 "SHIN MYONG" with Korean shamans
and "KOKKEI" with Kim De Hwan and Yosuke Yamashita, which was released in Korea.

As composer, he has written works for

Koji Wakamatsu "Ready to Shoot",Rokurou Mochizuki"Lonely Hitman - new version".
and for Taiwanese Stan Lai "Secret Love~Peach Blossom Land",
has written soundtrack music for animated film "WILD7",
and has also arranged the works of numerous artists.

Active as a producer,

he has taken the helm for all of his own projects, as well as for Tetsuhiro Daiku, and other pop music projects.

He published a book "ITSUDATTE IIKAGEN" in 1999

,In the past he has written criticism and essays for various magazines.

Touring in the world

From 70th he has been touring so many places inside of Japan and outside of Japan.
He went 35countrys (USA,Canada,Germany,Netherlands,Austria,Swiss,France,Belgium,Luxembourg,Italy, Yugoslavia,Czech,England,Ireland,Russia, Morocco,Senegal,Nigeria,Egypt,Congo,Kenya,Tanzania,SouthAfrica, India,Myanmar,Malaysia,Laos,Vietnam,Singapore, Hongkong-China,Indonesia,Thailand,Philippines,Austraria,Mongoria,South Korea).
In each countries, he is trying to collaborate music with local musicians.

Major Jazz Festival that Umezu appeared.

From News paper

Japanese composer, saxophonist and clarinetist Umezu Kazutoki is completely unafraid to boldly go where Japanese jazzbos have never gone before. We're talking collaborations with taiko drummer, blues artists, village singers, avant-garde jazz guys, dancers and poets. Klezmer music, Middle Eastern music - you name it, Kazutoki will play it.
-Eye music June 18 1998 CINDY McGLYNN -

Forcing a Guest to Improvise

On Wednesday night at the Knitting Factory, with the reeds player Kazutoki Umezu sitting in ,Third Person sounded more like a cohesive band than an improvisatory game. Mr.Umezu, who has played with Third Person several times, responded quickly and humorously to Mr.Cora and Mr.Bennett's musical prompting. When Mr.Cora began scraping his cello in quick, as if trying to remove a stain from one of the strings, Mr. Umezu took out a penny whistle and blew a tune for his to work to.
When it wasn't playing call and response, the band was churning out fast, hard-hitting improvisations, with Mr. Umezu squealing in the high register of his sax and Mr. Cora coaxing low groans from his cello. Mr. Bennett provided variety : sometimes he played a marching-band beat ; at other times he hit electronic drum pads, which triggered recorded excerpts of television programs.
The fragility of the concept of Third Person was best illustrated when the trombonist Kono sat in as a fourth person, in the middle of the set. The band became a loose assemblage, four wandering musicians instead of a tight trio turning improvisations into songs by background a soloist into a corner and then helping him escape.
- New York Times may 30 1994 Neil Strauss -


KAZUTOKI UMEZU "KIKI"BAND, It's difficult to categorize . It may be newest type of Jazz Rock. It's sound like progressive rock. They like unusual beat. But basically it must be jazz. If you listen the rhythm, you'll feel rock ,and if you follow the melody you feel like listening ethnic music. And each solo performances are very powerful ,heart felt and interesting. Now their music and partnership is very tight and full of energy. Everybody who had heard "KIKI"BAND, think it's real sensational band !

"KIKI" was formed by Kazutoki Umezu at 1999 for the tour to Africa. This time he didn稚 have main band in Japan. He really wanted to make a band have strong power and various musical sense as small members. So he chose these 3 musicians.

KIDO NATSUKI (born in1964) is the most important guitarist in Japanese progressive rock scene. Also he plays avant-garde improvisation music and other hand he joins to play tango or ethnic folk song. At first everybody will be surprised his guitar technique, but soon they will understand his emotional musical sense.

He has been playing with his own band "BONDAGE FRUIT","PERE-FURU""COIL"and all acoustic band"WARE HOUSE".Also he is producing his own label"Maboroshi no Sekai".
"BONDAGE FRUIT"was invited by "Scandinavian Progressive Rock Festival"in 1998 and "Prog Fest '99" at San Francisco.In 2002 Richard Sinclair chose Kido for his Japanese unit. He is also a great composer, he offers some compositions to "KIKI".

HAYAKAWA TAKEHARU (born in 1954) is well-known player as a bassist of "Dr UMEZU BAND" and "SHIBUSA SHIRAZU".He has been playing with UMEZU since 1978 "SEIKATSU KOJO IINKAI ORH". His debut was early 70th as a genius jazz bassist when he was high school student.
But he wasn't satisfied to play only jazz ,he started to play electric bass and play R&B, Funk, Pop and Rock music. He always keep the rhythm so tight and makes own groove with Niida's drum. It makes solo players feel so freely. Plus his solo playing is powerful and makes unique effective sound. Nobody can play like him. Although he has his own band "HAYAKAWA",he is always busy to play with various musicians like Satoko Fujii, Coil and so on. That's why many musicians want to have him as their bassist.
By the way he is also famous as a bicyclist. Also he offers some compositions to "KIKI".

NIIDA KOZO(born in 1953) is the master of rock drummer. He had been playing in "RC SUCCESSION" that was the most famous rock band at 80th in Japan and Jun Togawa's"YAPOOZ".
He is still playing rock with Koichi Makigami's "HIKASU" .And made his own grope "Drummers" that is made up only several rock Drummers. Not only playing rock ,but also he learn many type of drumming , jazz, Latin, polka and African rhythm. He showed many style for "SHAKUSHAIN"or"KOMATCHA KLEZMER". Specially he interests Asian music like Bali. So he always put something new idea for "KIKI"s rhythm section. Of cause it comes on basic deep beat.

"KIKI"had the tour to go to Africa ,Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa in2000.and went to Paris and Kolon, Singapol & Kuala Lumpur in 2002 .Now they are planning Europe tour in 2003.

They released "KIKI" in 2001,live recording of African tour "Greeting from Africa" in 2002 ,and "Land Dizzy" in 2002 .

Every time "KIKI" want to see you.

From News paper

Magical Umezu spellbinds Carnivore crowd

The sorcerer was Japanese alt saxophonist Umezu Kazutoki who runs a tight little combo of electric bass, guitar and drums. The ambience was traditional, the turnout brilliant, and the music resourceful. The crowd, which included a significant number from the Japanese community as well as Kenyan musicians and musician wannabes, was there to have fun and it did. There was some atonal squeaky renditions of obviously very personal material as well as the brilliant free-jazz of sixties, best exemplified by John Coltrane. Umezu then walked through the acid jazz footpaths of groups like Spirogyra. drove on the heavy rock highway a/a Bruce Springstein before mellowing in a Jethro Tull-esqe softness.

So just how did he manage to build up the muscle to carry out the heaviness of such sounds?

The traditionally modern way. Guitar player Kido Natsuki was pretty heavily armed in the effects department, running a whole gamut of guitar effects from wah-wah, fuzz-tone, flenger,aqua to distortion foot pedals that even Jimi Hendrix would have been happy to lay his hands on.

The upside was that Natsuki's fret picking abilities and power on both acoustic and electric guitar were near faultless as he exorcized his demons on long drawn out solos. He certainly can cook them as well as anyone, building, slowly, down from mid-frame to screaming crescendo.

The downside was that he tended to go a little over the top in showy scales' playing which careened into territories outside the music and the melody evidently suffered.

Bassman Hayakawa Takeharu was equally well looked after in the effects department owning not less not less than four foot pedals which he used at will as he relished Umezu's generosity in the solo breaks he gifted his sidemen.

So who was the sanest man on the night? Drummer Niida Kozo,In an ensemble as dynamic as Umezu's the drummer needed to keep a tight rein on the rhythm section. He hemmed in Takeharu's constant trips down-frame, setting stage for Umezu's own sax take-off s and landings.

Umezu KIKI nay have disappointed those who came looking for a sound from the more traditional schools of jazz. They may have come expecting a little Dixieland, maybe some bebop or even some cool.

Some certainly expected Umezu to take chances ,to walk the tightrope and play whatever was soaring out of himself without wondering or caring whether people liked it or not. Such is the way with jazz buffs.

- Friday Magazine (Kenya) July 23 1999 -

Kazutoki Umezu's homepage| Live Information

More Information to u-shi: matatabi@s4.dion.ne.jp or fax to office U-Shi : 81-3-3398-8769

More Information to webmaster: maida01@yahoo.co.jp
Homepage for Japanese excellent musicians, especially jazz and Hougaku, Japanese traditional music.
(c)Copyright 1995-2008 Office U-Shi and J-Music.com. All rights reserved.