|Misako Kanos big breakthrough
Japanese pianist finds success in New York and Calgary
May 9 to 11
Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club
Philip Barker, owner of Calgarys Jazz Focus label, met pianist Misako Kano at the 1997 Jazz Times Magazine Convention in New York City, where he bought her demo cassette, music that had only been released in Japan up to that point. Impressed by her live playing and the music on the cassette, he offered to release the album in North America. Breakthrew was released in 1998, and Jazz Focus followed with a second Kano album, 3 Purple Cities. Her gigs in Calgary this week are happening thanks to Kano's association with Jazz Focus.
Kano performs both straight ahead jazz, and the more avant-garde creative improvisation. She is currently part of the hip New York scene and, in addition to her Jazz Focus recordings, has releases out on Knitting Factory Records with Thomas Chapin, and on John Zorns Tzadic label with guitar experimentalist Gary Lucas. She does not think there is a big difference in her approach to piano with these different styles, yet her preference is for the traditional jazz tune.
"If I have to play only improvised music with no beat, I get bored," says Kano. "The ideal is playing various styles. I need some meaning to the music, and when working written compositions that have time, rhythm and melody, I use more concentration and attention, I have to take more care."
Kano is noted for her percussive yet melodic piano soloing. Her training in classical music helps her develop harmonies and rhythm for composition, and she cites Ravel, Stravinsky and Scriabin among her influences. But when it comes to groove she aspires to be as good as Tommy Flanagan. This partly explains why Kano switched from classical to jazz in her sophomore year of school in Japan.
"My friends in school were improvising simple melodies and chord changes. This looked so fascinating to me.
"As a classical piano performer, I didnt get a chance to play with other instruments or improvise. I switched to jazz because I can write my own compositions and improvise them with other people. That is what is fun. There is more freedom in jazz as performer and composer."
In her Calgary shows, Kano will share some fun with local musicians from the Jazz Is society, including Bob Day on trumpet, and the trio of Johns Reid on saxophone, Hyde on bass, and DeWaal on drums.