Yosuke Onuma – Mini Interview

1. Where are you from and how did you first get into jazz/music?

My father liked jazz and often played it in the car while he was driving. One day, he played some bluesy organ jazz and it caught my attention. It was Jack McDuff’s album and George Benson was playing the guitar.

2. Why did you choose the guitar and who were your first influences?

My mom had an organ school and my father played the guitar as his hobby. So there was a guitar in our house. When I was a young boy, my mother’s organ students were all girls, so I didn’t want to learn it so much. So I turned to the guitar. Then I got into the band, boφwy, and started playing the guitar.

3. Why do you think jazz is so popular in Japan compared to other countries?

It might be true that it’s easier to make a living as a jazz musician in this country than in other countries. Still, even though it’s popular here, the average age of the fans are getting older. And unfortunately more and more jazz cafes (kissa) are closing.

But jazz is still popular thanks to the older generation of core jazz fans who spread the greatness of jazz nationwide, and also thanks to media coverage of random jazz musicians and some star jazz musicians, almost  the equivalent of rock stars.

Now, we have to show the younger generations that jazz is cool and it’s a music that keeps changing with time. Each musician is trying to go his or her own way.

And there are many people all over Japan who support those musicians. I think that’s the number one reason why people say jazz is popular in Japan.

4.What are your current and upcoming projects?

My own band which is an updated version of my last year’s album “GNJ.” My guitar and Satoru Shionoya’s piano duo. From Sep. 5th, with a flamenco cantaor and guitarist, Takamitsu Ishizuka, and a singer and guitarist, Kai Petite who is known for his alternate tuning guitar with bass strings, we’ll play jazz, flamenco, rock, funk, etc…

We’re starting an acoustic unit to pave a way for a new area with mixtures of various genres, rhythms and some jam elements. Check out my homepage for more details. http://www.yosukeonuma.com/

5. Three favorite albums:

”Live at the Lighthouse” / Grant Green

”Pop Pop” / Ricky Lee Jones

”Straight No Chaser” / Wes Montgomery

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Mr. OK Jazz is a 18+ year resident of Japan and spends all his free time wandering the Kanto area looking for jazz cafes, bars, clubs and record stores. For two years he hosted the OK Jazz radio show on InterFM Radio, currently the OK Jazz podcast. You can reach him at mrokjazz@tokyojazzsite.com
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