City of Asylum Jazz/Poetry: Yoichi Uzeki
On September 10, 2011 City of Asylum/Pittsburgh will celebrate its seventh annual Jazz/Poetry event in Pittsburgh’s Northside.
The featured jazz musicians this year are Oliver Lake and guest trio Tarbaby, who recently, as part of a jazz festival featuring 55 other groups in New York, “played the set to go home remembering,” according to the New York Times’s reviewer Ben Ratliff.
Last year, the Jazz/Poetry event featured music from Oliver Lake’s Big Band improvising behind the spoken words of writers Yusef Komunyakaa, Maryia Martysevich, Hinemoana Baker, Khet Mar, and Horacio Castellanos Moya.
Video editing and production by Glen Wood
As part of that event Sampsonia Way interviewed each of the members of Oliver Lake’s Big Band to get a glimpse of the personalities of the musicians that backed 2010’s readers.
Yoichi Uzeki, born in Tokyo in 1976, first took classical piano lessons at age four after his mother signed him up for them. Although Uzeki admitted in an interview with Rockyoumentally in 2009: “I was not really a serious student at all…I didn’t practice much.”
Uzeki started playing jazz when he went to college at Hosei University in Tokyo. By his early 20’s he was part of the acclaimed Japanese big band, the Waseda University High Society Orchestra, winning several awards with the group in 1998 and 1999.
In 2001 he went to Temple University to study jazz performance and recorded his original composition “Not a Love Song” with the Temple University Jazz band a year later. In 2005 Uzeki moved to New York to study jazz at Queens College CUNY. Since 2006 he has played piano with Oliver Lake’s Big Band.
In this interview Uzeki talks about his involvement with Oliver Lake’s Big Band, naming his original compositions, and sparking the imaginations of his listeners.