Improvised Music from Japan / Shibusashirazu Orchestra

A Collaboration of Jazz and Dance

By Teruto Soejima, Jazz Critic

(From the column Culture Forefront, in Komei Shimbun newspaper, November 3, 1996)

Don't miss Shibusashirazu, a really new type of jazz orchestra--or rather, a performance group in which music, theater, dance and art come together in complete harmony. The group, which goes beyond genre, is made up of Japanese artists with a free, young spirit.

The core of their performance is music. The group includes 20 to 30 musicians: over ten players of wind instruments such as trumpet, sax and pan flute; several players of string instruments such as guitar, bass, violin and biwa (a Japanese instrument); four or five drummers and percussionists; and others on keyboards, etc. Only the main themes are written on their scores: the rest of their music is powerful free improvisation. For themes they sometimes use hit tunes sung by Japanese-pop enka singers such as Mina Aoe and Hiroshi Mizuhara, and turn them into free jazz. Leader Daisuke Fuwa, after stepping in a dignified manner atop a stepladder, begins waving his hands and jumping up and down; and, following his movements, the group produces a dynamic and energetic sound. The audience goes wild with excitement.

In front of the musicians on stage, the female dance group Chibusashirazu dance crazily. Occasionally young dancers from the Butoh company Dairakudakan take part in performances. In addition, Wi Nob, a radical actress from the theater group Furen Dance, comes out in a thigh-baring costume and gives an amazing performance while ad-libbing provocative lines.

A number of visual artists bring their creative works onto the stage as well. On the outdoor stage at the Yokohama Festival, for example, a 10-meter-long dragonfly swayed to the music in the autumn sky.

Shibusashirazu established this performance style about three years ago. They originated in 1989 as a jazz orchestra playing in a performance of the theater group Hakken no Kai. In their stunning, revelry-like performance, one feels that in some sense they are successors to the glorious underground movement of the 60s. That huge dragonfly must have been heading for the sky of the 21st century.

Last updated: May 22, 1998