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by Don Crispy

Breeding Ground

A seasoned party promoter and poet looks to reboot Tokyo’s jam scene

Poet and producer Marcellus Nealy

As the crossover between live and club music continues to blur, a number of clubs have launched regular jam sessions. Kyoto Jazz Massive DJ/producer Shuya Okino, for example, has the monthly Sofa at his center of operations in Shibuya’s The Room.

Now, on the other side of Shibuya at superclub Womb’s OBI Lounge, a spoken word artist and longtime Tokyo house promoter has created a new bi-monthly event that he hopes will add fuel to the fire.

Breeding Ground, says Cleveland native Marcellus Nealy, emerged out of “Tokyo’s general lack of support for performing creators. There are very few workshop-type environments, very little opportunity for musicians to freely create, explore and develop. Sure, the live house scene is alive enough, but it lacks the communal element.”
With Nealy’s previous events such as Nuphoria focusing on the funkier side of house and the points where it crosses over to jazz, look for Breeding Ground to continue in this direction.

Nealy is setting the bar high. “Breeding Ground aspires to attract only the best musicians because we want the event to become a formidable learning ground...like the old jam sessions that used to happen back in the day when jazz was everywhere—guys like Coltrane and Miles would drop by just to work out their technique by playing with other high-caliber musicians.”

Everyone, musicians included, pays the ¥2,000 cover charge. “Since we do not have a sponsor to support us, we are hoping to use the money as a means of keeping the event rolling, hopefully increasing the power as we go along by: being able to place ads in magazines, developing a powerful website that helps to promote the artists involved, releasing recordings...”

A veteran Tokyo expatriate, Nealy, who sometimes goes under the moniker “Light Walker,” has been experimenting with his intensely rhythmic rap/poetry across a spectrum of musical settings for a number of years now. He’s performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, hosted a show, “Melodic Lover,” on Shibuya FM, and even appeared on a recording with J-pop unit Dreams Come True.

More recently, he’s set his improvised verse to the jazz-funk riffs of Tokyo band the Modernday Soothsayers and the electronica of Japanese techno artists like Funky Gong. Another recent project was this spring’s The World, which matches him with German hard techno producer Johannes Weil for perhaps the world’s first techno/poetry collaboration, while his latest improvisational unit is Zingalamaduni, with Japanese tribal musician Goro and percussionist Shunsuke...

Moving on, one of Tokyo’s legendary clubs is reborn next weekend when Azabu-Juban’s Luners, which closed almost a year ago and was briefly reincarnated as a paintball gallery, reopens with a new look and new management. Operated by Roppongi club A-life, Warehouse is being overseen by experienced bookings manager, Japanese-Brazilian Luciano Uchizono, which means a solid lineup of house and techno talent.

Warehouse launches on Friday with veteran Tokyo/New York house DJs Satashi Tomie and Stephane K, with techno masters Oliver Ho and Japan’s Tasaka slated for Saturday and old-school house master Kenny Dope for the following weekend, and, says Uchizono, “more surprises coming soon...”

Shibuya’s leading gaijin hangout, meanwhile, the Sonoma/Ruby Room restaurant and club complex just off Dogenzaka, is celebrating its second anniversary with two floors of fun and an all-star DJ lineup including among others Duck Rock on “Deck ‘n’ Effect,” Mel Bruce (Spice), and a live performance from Dutch Oven.

Finally, leading sports video-game maker Electronic Arts is hosting the after party for the Kanye West tour at A-life. The party will also provide a look at EA’s new game, Def Jam Fight for NY, with DJs Ken-bo, DJ Kenkaida, DJ Sachiho and DJ Muscle.

Breeding Ground@Womb (OBI Lounge), December 2 and every second Thursday. Opening@Warehouse, December 3-4. Ruby Room/Sonoma 2nd Anniversary Party@Ruby Room and Sonoma, December 3. Kanye West After Party@A-life, December 2. See club listings for details.

credit: Akito Ueno

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