Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kazutoki Umezu KIKI Band at Manggha (20.09) Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival begins!

It has begun! And by 'it' I mean the long-awaited Autumn Jazz Festival in Krakow where I hope to see you all in the next two months.
And it started with a heavy kick provided by the Kazutoki Umezu KIKI Band, a group well known and always welcomed by Krakow audience (as they have played here before).

I admit it is a relatively easy task to write about this group's concert since you know exactly what to expect from this band and the band fulfills those (high) expectations. Plus you can support your words with a selection of decent quality vids easily find on the web.
(polish readers can also find the text published on

KIKI's music is a well shaken cocktail: swiss precision, a doze of (typical to japanese music scene) madness, catchy melodies, massive rock sound, heavy riffs, crazy speed rhythms and some ass-kicking soloing to go with it. All of that within a strict form of a rock song (verse-chorus-bridge; with the exception of multi-themathic, extended prog-rock piece that opened the 2nd set). The instumental prowess is also enhanced by musical showmanship as the melodic bass solos bring to mind Victor Wooten, under the rusty free-jazz sounds made by Kazutoki his sound is clear and sweet like that of David Sanborn's alto (and I mean it as a compliment), Natsuki Kido could be an incarnation of Gary Moore (or another guitar-shredder) and the drummer doesn't slack off either, proud to defend's the rock honor of USA.
Above this hard rock fundamentals the band incorporates all kinds of stylistic inspirations to begin with metal (heavy tribal timbre of the drums, double pedal kick),  through blues rock (some guitar scales), funk (bass obviously), soul (the heat in saxophone's sound), free-jazz (the expressivity of Umezu's solos) to prog rock (the epic theme of "Izumoya") and in particular melodies there are echoes of klezmer (Kazutoki leads also a japanese klezmer group[!]), asian folk or joyfully hoppy ska music. And this variety and openess is somehow typical to japanese scene that doesn't segregate genres that are exotic and external to its culture, thus making it fascinating to see the western music being brought back to western audience by a japanese band.

There are some solid new pieces from the new album ("A Chrysalis' Dream") but I enjoy the most (and it is another prove of a rock character of this concert - one expects hits) couple of pieces I knew well from the previous cds and concerts. Like the crazy "Monkey Mash" (see the video above), or the built upon ultra-low bass riff "Dressler #36" (with a nice sax-drums duo). Also the ballad "Izumoya", dedicated by Kazutoki to the victims of tsunami in Japan, introduced by him with a deeply emotional a'capella solo. "Vietnamese Gospel", known from a registration of the concert in Alchemia released by Not Two records, is played as the encore, a soul number with heated, passionately preaching sax solo (featuring also a warm, harmonic bass intro).
There's an unstoppable energy to KIKI's music, the awe-inspiring musicianship, there's a singing and dancing in there and disarming honesty, all those qualites that I often miss in jazz. In simple words KIKI kicks ass and rocks the socks off your the feet. A raw, juicy rock steak as an appetizer for a series of avant-jazz meals? Count me all in.

KIKI Band:
Kazutoki Umezu - alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet
Natsuki Kido - electric guitar
Takeharu Hayakawa - bass guitar
Joe Trump - drums

Kraków. Manggha Museum. 20.09.2011


  1. I've seen them a couple of time in Krakow. Telling the truth I didn't like the last concert. I had leave the concert hall. I just can't listen to this sort of rock (even though I like a lot of popular music. This is the only concert that is "out of Krakowska Jesien Jazzowa World". Zenek Kolorowy


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