To Be Released July 31st 2012 on PND Records
Walking past a shop window one day in 2008, Senri Oe caught a glimpse of his reflection in the glass. What most people would have seen looking back at them was an enormously successful musician and actor. Over the course of his 25-year career, Oe has released 45 hit singles and nearly 20 albums, more than half of which the Japanese Gold Disc Award; he has written songs for more than 30 J-Pop artists, including the winner of the 1999 FNS Pop Music Award for Best Song; and he hosted a talk show on Japan’s national broadcasting network, NHK.
But what Oe saw that day was a jazz pianist, one who he’d neglected for a quarter of a century. “When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of jazz,” Oe recalls. “But I became a singer-songwriter and got a deal with Sony Japan when I was 23 years old. But I still adore jazz and really wanted to get back to my basics. Life is short and it was time to turn my life’s page to the next chapter.”
Determined to begin studying jazz at the age of 47 (one friend jokingly likened the attempt to deciding to suddenly become an Olympic athlete), Oe enrolled at New York City’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and followed the path of idols like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. He studied under Junior Mance, Aaron Goldberg and Toru Dodo, shedding his pop habits and learning the language of jazz.
The result is Boys Mature Slow, an album whose title self-deprecatingly refers to Oe’s midlife realignment. Listening to the album, it’s hard to believe that four short years ago, jazz was something beloved but foreign to him. Oe swings like a veteran throughout, in league with a powerhouse band consisting of drummer Obed Calvaire, bassist Jim Robertson, trumpeter Jonathan Powell, and trombonist Joe Beaty, who Oe also works with in the J-Pop big band Morning Musuko.
It wasn’t an easy road, the pianist recalls. Arriving at the New School with a technique derived more from Billy Joel than Bill Evans, Oe found himself standing out from a classroom full of younger musicians. On day one, he snapped iPhone photos of an 18-year-old classmate’s fingers and took them home as a model for practice.
Another culture shock came when a teacher asked him to play “rhythm changes.” Taking the request literally, Oe started playing a reggae rhythm, then a waltz, and finally a blues before his incredulous instructor stopped him. Oe was unfamiliar with the common phrase, referring to the familiar chord progression of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.”
“The first two years were so hard for me,” Oe confesses. “But little by little I started feeling more comfortable.”
So comfortable, in fact, that Oe’s debut arrives on his own newly-minted label, PND Records. The name, which is also the title of one of the album’s tunes, stands for “Peace Never Dies,” a noble sentiment but one with a more tangible meaning. “I brought my dog Peace with me from Japan,” he says. “I really hope she lives forever.”
Another influence on the album from outside the jazz world is director Alfred Hitchcock, who inspired three of the pieces: Opener “Tommy Who Knew Too Much” takes its inspiration from both the master director’s classic “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and from a New School friend. “The Murderer in Vineyard” takes its noir feel from Hitchcock soundtrack composer Bernard Herrmann and was originally composed as a ballad, before Oe rethought it with a Latin feel. And the lovely, mysterious melody of “My Island” came into Oe’s head while watching Kim Novak in “Vertigo.”
The lush “Camp Sweetheart” was also penned with a specific image in mind: true love in front of a campfire beside a lake. Oe concentrated on that image while the tune revealed itself to him gradually, not by note. “Sandwish” is also a fantasy, this one a relaxed whimsy about Antonio Carlos Jobim playing a grand piano on the beach. “Ponte Vecchio Bridge Melancholia” transplants “Chelsea Bridge” to a sunset stroll over the medieval span in Florence, Italy.
Finally realizing his lifelong dream, Oe now plans to venture further, possibly combining jazz with folkloric Japanese music or write lyrics for his jazz pieces. One thing this experience has taught him, Oe says, is that “We can change whenever.”
..:: SOURCE: Fully Altered Media ::..