Friday, February 10, 2017

Ryo Kawasaki - 1976 - Juice

Ryo Kawasaki 

01. Raisins 6:17
02. Sometime 4:42
03. The Breeze And I 7:20
04. East Side Boogie 6:00
05. El Toro 4:34
06. Bamboo Child 4:48
07. Andes 4:26

Lead Guitar – Ryo Kawasaki
Bass – Stu Woods
Drums – Jimmy Young
Keyboards, Synthesizer – Tom Coster
Percussion – Muhammad Abdullah
Rhythm Guitar – Hugh McCracken
Synthesizer, Percussion – Mike Lipskin
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Sam Morrison

Recorded, mixed and mastered at RCA, New York.

Ryo Kawasaki was born on February 25, 1947, in Koenji, Tokyo, while Japan was still struggling and recovering from the early post World War II period. His father, Torao Kawasaki, was a Japanese diplomat who had worked for The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1919. Torao worked at several Japanese consulates and embassies, including San Francisco, Honolulu, Fengtian (then capital of Manchuria, now Shenyang in China), Shanghai, and Beijing while active as an English teacher and translator for official diplomatic conferences. Ryo's mother, Hiroko, was also multilingual, and spoke German, Russian, English, and Chinese aside from her native tongue Japanese. Hiroko grew up in Manchuria and then met Torao in Shanghai. Torao was already 58 years old when Ryo was born as an only child.

Kawasaki's mother encouraged him to take piano and ballet lessons, and he took voice lessons and solfege at age four and violin lessons at five, and was reading music before elementary school. As a grade scholar, he began a lifelong fascination with astronomy and electronics (he built his own radios, TVs and audio systems including amplifiers and speakers as well as telescopes). When Ryo was 10, he bought a ukulele and, at 14, he got his first acoustic guitar. The album Midnight Blue by Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine inspired Ryo to study jazz.

In high school, he began hanging out at coffee-houses that featured live music, formed a jazz ensemble and built an electric organ that served as a primitive synthesizer. By the time he was 16, his band was playing professionally in cabarets and strip joints. Although he continued to play music regularly, he attended Nippon University, majored in quantum physics and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree. Although he has failed to prove his main interest and intuitive belief at that time, which is to prove that speed (acceleration) of gravity must be much greater than speed of light. He also did some teaching and contest judging at the Yamaha musical instrument manufacturer's jazz school. Additionally he worked as a sound engineer for Japanese Victor Records and BGM/TBS Music where he learned mixing and editing.

He recorded his first solo album for Polydor Records when he was 22. Although he continued to perform with his jazz group, and at a young age was voted the No. 3 jazz guitarist in a Japanese jazz poll, Kawasaki spent most of the next three years working as studio musician on everything from advertising jingles to pop songs including countless radio and TV appearances. He recorded his second album for Toshiba when he was 24. He played with B.B. King at a blues festival and also met George Benson (they jammed for five hours at Kawasaki's house).

He also has recorded and worked with notable Japanese jazz musicians such as drummer Takeshi Inomata and Sound limits, saxophonist Jiro Inagaki and Soul Mates, saxophonist Keiichiro Ebisawa, saxophonist Seiichi Nakamura, pianist Masahiko Sato, saxophonist Hidehiko Matsumoto and many others.

In 1973, Kawasaki arrived in New York. A friend picked him up at the airport and offered him an immediate gig with Joe Lee Wilson playing at the Lincoln Center as part of the Newport Jazz Festival. Soon Kawasaki was jamming regularly as part of the jazz community's "loft scene", and was invited to play with Bobbi Humphrey. A few months later, Kawasaki walked up to his apartment and found a stranger waiting for him at his front door. It was Gil Evans and he invited Kawasaki to join The Gil Evans Orchestra (David Sanborn, Howard Johnson, Tom Malone, Lew Soloff) which was then working on a jazz recording of Jimi Hendrix compositions. Hendrix had dreamed up the concept with Evans, but Jimi died a week before the project started in 1970. Kawasaki also played on another Gil Evans album on RCA, There Comes a Time, with Tony Williams on drums. Kawasaki rehearsed for a month with the third edition of Tony Williams' Lifetime with trio format with bassist Doug Rauch working with Carlos Santana at that time, but Tony left to spend a year in Europe before the band got the chance to perform in public.

Kawasaki followed in the footsteps of Jim Hall, Gábor Szabó and Larry Coryell by becoming the guitarist in the Chico Hamilton Band, playing on a U.S. tour and working on various film scores that Chico recorded in Hollywood. Kawasaki made his debut U.S. album, Juice, in 1976 for RCA and was one of the first Japanese jazz artists to sign with a major label in the States. Sidemen on the project included Tom Coster (Carlos Santana) and Sam Morrison (Miles Davis). Kawasaki followed that recording with two more albums, Prism and Eight Mile Road, for the Japanese label East Wind. He also joined the Elvin Jones Band for a year-long tour of North and South America and Europe. By 1978, Kawasaki was tired of touring with other bands and returned to his own projects.

He explored Music of India, learned ragas and recorded an Audio Fidelity album, Ring Toss, that combined eastern and western music. With Dave Liebman he recorded Nature's Revenge for the German MPS label and they toured Europe. Ryo also toured European jazz festivals with Joanne Brackeen as piano – guitar duo, and they recorded a pair of albums—AFT and Trinkets and Things—for Timeless Records in the Netherlands. In Japan, Sony's Open Sky label signed Ryo for three albums—Mirror of my Mind, Little Tree and Live—the latter, recorded in a Tokyo club, was one of the first all-digital recordings. Notable musicians participated on those recordings include Michael Brecker, Harvey Mason, Leon Pendarvis, Azar Lawrence, Anthony Jackson, Lincoln Goines, Badal Roy, Nana Vasconcelos, Buddy Williams, Larry Willis, and Alex Blake. He also recorded an album called Sapporo for Swiss label America Sound in 1980 while touring Switzerland and Germany.

Kawasaki invented his own guitar synthesizer in 1979, and used it to perform numerous solo shows at planetariums from 1980 to 1983. He also formed the jazz-rock group The Golden Dragon and performed concerts regularly in the 1980s. Fostex developed the first quarter- inch-tape, eight-track recorder and asked Kawasaki to be the first artist to use it. He recorded the album Ryo in 1981 for Philips Records and gained notoriety for creating all the music himself. He played only a nylon-string acoustic guitar with all his backing tracks created on his guitar synthesizer including the entire original orchestration of Joaquin Rodrigo's well known Concierto de Aranjuez – Adagio movement. He did another similar recording, Lucky Lady, the next year.

When the Commodore 64 computer came out with a sound-chip in it, Kawasaki became fascinated by the possibilities. He learned to write computer programs and devoted 16 hours a day for two years creating four music software programs—Kawasaki Synthesizer, Kawasaki Rhythm Rocker, Kawasaki Magical Musicquill, and Kawasaki MIDI Workstation—distributed by Sight and Sound Music. The first three programs were for school and home use, and the last one was for professional studios. He created an all-synthesized album, Images, in 1987; and the soundtrack, Pleasure Garden, in 1990, for an IMAX film about the preservation of the Earth's endangered tropical rain forests.

From 1986 to 1990, Kawasaki produced a series of high-charting 12 inch dance singles—"Electric World", "One Kiss", "No Expectations", "Say Baby I Love You", "Don't Tell Me", "Wildest Dreams", "Life is The Rhythm", "Pleasure Garden", and "Acid Heat"—that mixed free-style, house, acid house and ambient sounds. All of the production was done at his home studio, The Satellite Station, and the records were released on his own label, Satellites Records. His band and a dance troupe also performed extensively in New York dance clubs. In addition, for five years (1988 to 1993), Kawasaki was the New York producer and director of two Japanese national weekly music radio programs, The Music Now and Idex Music Jam. In 1991. He also collaborated with Japanese koto master Kicho Takano and produced "Crystallization" in 1986.

Kawasaki's musical direction took another dramatic turn when he was signed by the new jazz and adult contemporary Japanese label One Voice as an artist and record producer. Kawasaki's return to jazz, and his first album for the label, was the 1992 acoustic solo guitar album Here, There and Everywhere (released on One Voice in Japan and on Satellites Records in the U.S.). Kawasaki has produced and performed on three albums by Brazilian singer and guitarist Camila Benson for this label. Ryo has continued to release a steady string of albums—the acoustic My Reverie (music from Bill Evans, Debussy, Ravel and Gershwin), the electric jazz guitar-oriented Love Within The Universe (which received considerable airplay across the country), "Remixes Remixes Vol. 1" (also featuring Benson), "Sweet Life" and CD releases of "Mirror of my Mind" (a jazz ensemble recording with Harvey Mason, Michael Brecker, Anthony Jackson, Leon Pendarvis and vocalist Radha Shottam).

His 1991 release Cosmic Rhythm features British singer lyricist Clare Foster along with Kawasaki's rhythm section Victor Jones on drums, Lincoln Goines on bass. The album also features David Kikoski on piano and Shunzo Ohno on flugelhorn. All the songs were arranged and recorded by Kawasaki including original ten songs by Ro himself.

During 1995–1999, three hip hop artists, Puff Daddy, Kool G Rap, and Keith Murray, recorded Kawasaki's original composition "Bamboo Child" on their latest albums more than twenty years after its original recording.

In 2001, Kawasaki released live a studio trio album "Reval", recorded in Tallinn, Estonia with Estonian musicians Toivo Unt on bass, Aivar Vassiljev on drums, and Kristi Keel on English horn.

His other projects include being a composer, music director as well as a guitarist for the jazz ballet "Still Point" for the Estonian National Opera House during 2000-2002. This ballet is choreographed by Russell Adamson, a native Jamaican who resides in Helsinki.

Kawasaki released his third acoustic guitar solo album 'E' in 2002.

From the year 2000 on, Kawasaki further expanded his live appearances into Russia and Baltic region Jazz Festivals. His quartet has appeared at Rigas Ritmi Jazz Festival in Riga/Latvia, Pori and other jazz festivals in Finland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Saransk Jazz Ark Festival. He also appeared numerous times at Nõmme Jazz Festival in Estonia while assisting the production of this jazz festival.

Kawasaki's projects during 2005–2008 included guitar trio project with American drummer Brian Melvin and Estonian bassist Toivo Unt under the "Art of Trio" name, performing in a variety of venues in Finland, Sweden, and the Baltic states, and performing with Estonian vocalist Jaanika Ventsel, while also touring and recording in Japan for the duo project with bassist Yoshio 'Chin' Suzuki, their duo CD "Agana" was released in February 2007.

In 2008, Kawasaki formed jazz ensemble with Estonian pianist/keyboardist Tõnu Naissoo.[1] Also, his second duo CD with Yoshio 'Chin' Suzuki and first CD with "Art of Trio" were completed and released during 2009, while his composition "Raisins" was included on the Grand Theft Auto IV radio station Fusion FM in 2008.

"Juice" is the first official US release of Ryo Kawasaki, a Jazz Funk bijou recorded & mixed in New York in 1976. It shows off one skillful fusion, brilliantly introduced by the track "Raisins" (reminiscent of The Headhunters style), including deep grooves, Boogie Funk with electronic sounds & disco breaks, the aftermath from the James Brown & Herbie Hancock influences. The other titles include the funky climax "East Side Boogie", "The Breeze And I" (a kind of Samba Funk), "El Toro" with its powerful & dynamic beat and "Andes", all under the remarkable pulse from bassist Stu Woods. "Juice" keeps some influences on nowadays music as its recycling, naturally, in the Hip-Hop sphere : thus "Raisins" & "Bamboo Child" were sampled by various contemporary rap artists such as Kool G Rap or Puff Daddy. Furthermore, "Raisins" was also included in the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack, broadcasted on the fictional radio station "Fusion FM" in 2008.



    1. Thanks for all you do. This blog is priceless.

  2. Fantastic! You don't happen to have a copy of "RYO" ft. Concierto De Aranjuez by any chance? I can only find a few tracks online and would love to hear the whole thing

    1. I do not have it, but it is on my want list, so if I ever get my hands on it.. it will be posted!