Boomkat Product Review:
Yusuke Ogawa selects a diverse set of Japanese jazz deep cuts from the Nippon Columbia vaults, with WaJazz classics from Jiro Inagaki, Minoru Muraoka, Hiroshi Suzuki and others.
While Japan's interest in jazz is well documented, it's taken decades for the country's homegrown jazz to achieve interest from outside the rare groove scene. In the 2000s, Japan began to reevaluate its jazz history, referring to the music as "WaJazz" and establishing it as its own specific genre - connected to US jazz traditions but also existing on its own. Yusuke Ogawa is perhaps the country's foremost expert on WeJazz, he's been running Tokyo's collector-centric Universounds store since 2001, and he's also supervised dozens of reissues and compilations, as well as lending his expertise to the WaJazz Disc Guide and the Independent Black Jazz of America books.
Ogawa notes that on this selection of tracks, there's "something uniquely Japanese flowing through that creates a kind of synergy." On the surface, the modern jazz flow of Takeo Moriyama's 'Watarase' might sound familiar, but look a little closer - those flutes! - and its Japanese qualities rise high above. Elsewhere, Tadaaki Misago & Tokyo Cuban Boys' 'Sakura Sakura' is a cinematic Blaxploitation-style groover, but skronks in the most unexpected places, while Soul Media's 'Breeze' augments loose, lite funk with Japanese percussion in the most subtle way. From beginning to end, this is sublimely high quality material that shines a bright light on a scene that's well deserving of closer attention.