TATSU AOKI TRIO
The emergence of Asian-hyphenate musicians committed to exploring their heritage in jazz settings has provided some of the most dynamic and fulfilling music of the last decade. In the work of such artists--including pianist Jon Jang and saxophonists Fred Ho and Francis Wong (all Chinese-American); the French-Vietnamese guitarist Nguyen Le; and Tatsu Aoki, the Japanese-born American bassist--you can hear the same sorts of creative explosions that accompanied previous shifts in the jazz paradigm. One of the traits that unifies these players is a special reverence for African-Americans' exalted place in the jazz hierarchy: Wong, the president of Asian Improv Arts (AIR), in Berkeley, speaks movingly of how he views the struggles of black jazzmen in general, and of Chicago's AACM in particular, as a model for his own efforts. And Aoki, who lives in Chicago, refers to the "Afro-Asian" nature of his trio, which could serve as a local recruiting office for the quiet revolution this music represents. Mwata Bowden fronts the group; best known for his role in Ed Wilkerson's 8 Bold Souls, Bowden plays a blustery baritone sax and a whirling-dervish clarinet, his R & B roots providing his solos with impassioned inflection. On drums, Afifi Phillard funnels decades of experience--including work with Sun Ra and a host of Chicago units--into an authentic snapshot of Chicago-style free percussion, emphasizing the rough edges without sacrificing the internal complexities of the pulse. And the more you listen to Aoki, the more he amazes. He has the technique, sound, and vision to have filled no less than three CDs with imaginative solo bass music, and he crosses boundaries like Sherman en route to the sea. Raised in Tokyo but a resident of the U.S. for two decades now, Aoki offers insights from both Asian and American cultures. He also has studied and taught experimental filmmaking--which may explain the quirky narrative lines of his solos. Saturday, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Tasu Aoki photo/ uncredited.