Jazz stars tune up for Tokyo festival

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The Independent Culture

Some of the biggest names in the world of jazz are descending on Tokyo for Japan's largest celebration of jazz music, which opens at the Tokyo International Forum on September 2.

This year's three-day festival includes artists such as international stars Al Jarreau, the Count Basie Orchestra, David Sanborn and Sergio Mendes. Jazz has an enthusiastic following in Japan and home-grown talents will include Akira Ishii, Kazunori Kumagai, Kenji Hino and Hiromi Uehara, famous for her improvisational piano pieces.

Organizers say they want the music being performed at the festival to transcend jazz's borders and generations, while showcasing musicians who are happy to take risks with their music and explore new areas.

The festival dates back to 2002, when the lineup included such jazz luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and the Buena Vista Social Club.

The first evening of the festival will feature a special performance titled "Jazz for Japan Live," which will bring together several of the musicians who donated their skills to a charity album that was recorded immediately after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. The record has been released worldwide and the proceeds were donated to those worst affected by the worst natural disaster to befall Japan in living memory.

The musicians who will be taking to the stage include Clarence McDonald, David T. Walker, Del Atkins, Hubert Laws, Ndugu Chancler and Tom Scott, with Al Jarreau taking part as a special guest.

The Tokyo Jazz Festival has earned itself a solid reputation on the festival circuit for attracting some of the top performers and a knowledgeable audience but still has some way to go before it can rank alongside the premium festivals, such as those in the Swiss city of Montreux, the Montreal International Jazz Festival and those in Newport, Rhode Island, and New Orleans.

Dates: September 2-4, 2011.

Venue: Tokyo International Forum, Hall A, 5-1 Marunouchi 3-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0005, Japan. http://www.t-i-forum.co.jp/english/access.html

Tickets: From Y6,500 (€58.80) to Y9,500 (€85.94). A ticket to attend all events costs Y18,000 (€162.83). Children under the age of 3 are admitted free of charge.

Further information: Tel. +81 3 5777 8600 (from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)