Rafu Shimpo NO. 28,261 :
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13. 1997
"IA JAZZ IMPORT"
Guitarist Hideaki Tokunaga, winning of a Down Beat magazine award, will perform at MOCA in California plaza on Thursday.
By TAKESHI NAKAYAMA
RAFU ASSOCIATE EDITOR
|An Osaka-born award-winning jazz guitarist, Hideaki Tokunaga, and his quartet will perform at California Piaza on Thursday, Aug. 14, as part of the of the Museum of Contemporaty Art's "Summer Nights at MOCA" series.
The talented Tokunaga received the 1995 Down Beat magazine Student Music Award as outstanding jazz instrumenta~ soloist while he was a student at the California Institute of the Arts. He was selected for the coveted award from among 5,000 juniorhigh, seniorhigh school and college musicians who entered their recorded tracks. More than 300 schools from across the nation entered the competition and Tokunaga was one of 75 winners announced in the 90,000 subscriber Chicago-based magazine's May 1995 edition.
The highly-acclaimed guitarist said winning Down Beat Award was "great," but he added that many great musicians never gat an award. "Some of the people I play with are as good as or better than I am but they never got any recognition."
Tokunaga's music is "straightahead" jazz and he plays guitar in fhe style of Wes Montgomery. "Just like him, I use my thumb. I don't use the pics" he said.
Some of the guitar virtuosso's favorite artists include Montgomery, Miles Davis (trumpet) and Bill Evans (piano). He has played with Billy Higgins (drums) and toured in Japan with Tootie Heath of MJQ (drums).
Tokunaga, 31, now a resident of Culver City, became a musician because "this Is what i like. I believed I could make a comfortabIe living".
Realizing that making a confortable living in jazz is not easy, Tokunaga, a full time musician, also is working part-time this summer at a computer job creating web sites.
He conceded it was difficult getting started in jazz, "I didn't consider myself a professiooal musieian, even though I played music for 10 years. It's a tough busincss. Many great musicians drive cabs or work in hospita~s to support themselves. I have a side business-temp work on computers --- to support myself.
"I can make enough money playing jazz to pay the rent and buy groceries. That's fine for me, but my wife doesn't like that. I want my wife to be happy. I kinda depended on her when I was a professional musician for IO year. Sometimes she supported me when I didn't make much money. I couldn't do it without my wife," Tokunaga related.
"lt's tough to break into this business, but it's what I like. I don't think I would want to do other types of music where I can make more money, like rock or enka music," the guitarist commented.
Jazz is very popular in Japan. "more popular than it is here, although in New York it is still popular," he commented.''The one thing about my country is they love jazz muslcians, but they won't invest money in the talent in Japan.
''There are many good Japanese musicians such as Kei Akagi (piano) and Ark Sano (piano)--he's a great one. Also, there's a bunch of great Japanese jazz musicians in New York like Toshiko Akiyoshi and Terumasa Hino (trumpet)." he pointed out.
Takunaga grew up listening to rhythm and blues and popular Japanese music, and eventually gained an interest in jazz, He said his early musical influences were his mother a music teacher, sister and brother. '"They never forced me to go into music. I went on my own to Yamaha music school, to learn guitar and eiectronic organ, when I was in junior high school, I knew how to read music and knew music theory. It was a littte expensive for a junior high kid, about $50 a month out of my own allowance," he said.
Tokunaga came to the United States in 1985 to study jazz because "I believed that in New York and Boston I could get into this kind of music form,"
He settlld in New York, playing in restaurants and with a group called Music Under New York, which arranged for musicians to play in subways. "My real education was piaying in the New York subway. That was good. The musicians I played with were at such a high level," he said.
The world-class musician is the son of Kimiko and Shunzo Tokunaga of Osaka, His father is a retired sea tanker captain, but Takunaga has never been to sea. He was too busy playing the guitar for the past 17 years.
His parents didn' t like Tokunaga' s career choice before he left for the U.S., he recalled, "Now that I got the Down Beat Award and the critics say good things about me, they can acceat it, It's what I wanted to do and they respect me for it. It took my dad a long time to accept it. For my parents, janz is not classical. For me it's an art form. I fell in love with jazz.
Tokunaga met and married his American wife, Carrie Farmer, in New York, and they later moved to Los Angeles. She was a movie sound engineer, but is now a kindergarten teacher in the Culver City Sehool District.
Having heard of the California Institute of the Arts while trying to make a living as a musician in New York, Tokunaga applied for the school once he was in Los Angeles, and received the Charles Mingus Soholarship to study at the famed Valencia school from 1991 to 1995. He graduated with a bacheor's degree in music and is currently taking graduate courses. He has one more semester of work before he arns his master's degree.
Tokunaga, whose debut album is "the Wind Told Me" (Periscope/ MIDI INC JAPAN) plans to continue in music business, "This is my career. I would like to finish my master's and I hope to teach. I hope people buy my CD," he said.
If I wan't in the music business I could be in jail," he joked. "I don't think I would be in the computer business. But I could have been a Japanese Businessman. I am very conservative like they are, but I don't drink or smoke."
"I like what I am doing. I also go to movies and look at web sites. But mainly playing music is my hobby," he said.
Tokunaga's band for the MOCA at California Plaza csncert will include Kevin O'Neal (bass) and Greg Kurstin (piano). The California Plaza is locatcd at 250 S. Grand Avenue downtown Los Angeles, The concert is scheduIed for 5 to 8 p.m. Parking for MOCA at California Plaza is available in the California Plaza parking garage on Lower Grand Avenue for $4.40 after 5 pm. MOCA is also accessible by MTA bus routes and DASM Line B. For additional information on "Summer Nights at MOCA" call 213-621-1749