By Dan Grunebaum
Mercurial singer-songwriter Takuji Aoyagis group
celebrates 15 years with a new album and outdoor concert
|Masato Suzuki, Takuji
Aoyagi and Tsutomu Kurihara
courtesy of Hot Stuff
The founders of the slow food movement in Bra,
Italy, probably had little idea that their concept of a locally
produced, carefully prepared alternative to fast food would
be extended to music. But thats what the promoter Hot
Stuff has done with its Slow Music Slow Live events, which
have brought evenings of mellow tunes and organic foods to
the shady precincts of a temple in Ota Ward for the past few
The event has proven such a success that this years
Slow Music Slow Live has been expanded to three days. The
first days program, Evening Breeze, features
homegrown bossa-nova singer Lisa Ono as headliner, while the
third day puts the emphasis on jazz with singer/flugelhorn
player Toku fronting a new group TKY. But perhaps the second
days program promises to be the most interesting.
The evening will be devoted to celebrating the 15th anniversary
of one of Japans most consistently creative bands in
the form of Little Creatures. Led by multi-instrumentalist
Takuji Aoyagi, the Creatures have compiled a respectable discography
of careful arrangements and gentle melodies that first set
the tone with their 1990 debut, Things to Hide.
A musicians musician whose main instrument is the guitar
but who can also play just about any string instrument that
falls into his clutches, Aoyagi is an ethno-musical voyager
who in some ways shares a curiosity for exotic destinations
and local musical cultures with American guitarist-anthropologist
Ry Cooder, discoverer of the Buena Vista Social Club.
An inveterate traveler, Aoyagi brings diverse influences into
the mix of not only Little Creatures, but also the more jazz-oriented
Double Famous, who will also be performing, and his solo act,
which he calls Kama Aina (Hawaiian for local or
A recent solo retrospective for key independent UK imprint
Domino, Musical Activist, was Aoyagis first introduction
to an overseas audience, and was compiled from his many Japanese
releases. I sometimes think that my music reminds me
of a remote island somewhere, he says in the liner notes.
On the other hand, it also sounds like a champroo (mixed
bag) music of an island, which is a melting pot of everything
from the outside world.
Little Creatures new disc and first in four years, Night
People, was recorded onto old-fashioned eight-track analog
tape, and leaves nothing to waste. Aoyagis Spartan guitar
work and understated vocals are set off by Masato Suzukis
subtle bass and keyboards and Tsutomu Kuriharas jazz-inflected
drums. The effect is moody and reflective to the point of
Aoyagis other activities include running two labels
(his own, Chordiary, for Little Creatures releases and the
Folkcore imprint with Japanese independent P-Vine) and producing
the Orca brand with artist/designer Tamie J. Hirokawa, which
creates clothing like the famous Dont shoot
T-shirt for journalists in war zones.
Also on the bill for Slow Music Slow Live are a number of
other intriguing Japanese acts. With 12 albums under their
belt, Little Tempo are a dub/reggae-flavored instrumental
ensemble rooted around the expert steel-pan playing of Takashi
Tico Toki and Gen Tamura. The nine-piece group
first ventured abroad to play the Meltdown Festival in London
in 2003, and this spring they released Super Tempo on Victors
Filling out the lineup are the expert three-piece Clammbon
and singer/guitarist Mukai Shutoku, best known for his work
with acclaimed indie-rock group the Zazen Boys.
Ikegami Honmonji, July 17. See concert
listings for details.
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