Hot House Jazz Guide, October 2015, P.43
Latin Jazz By Emilie Pons
Japanese pianist mixes her musical heritage with jazz and Latin music
“When I was 20 and just played jazz, I loved the sound of jazz, but I was not satisfied,” Chiemi Nakai explains. “Somehow it was not really deeply touching me.”
Nakai loves giants such as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, she says. “The first time I heard jazz it was Bud Powell and Wynton Kelly, Red Garland and Horace Silver.” However, she thinks Latin music has passion while jazz doesn’t. “Jazz is too intellectual, too complicated sometimes. When I met Latin music, I realized ‘Oh, this is my music.’”
Nakai’s passion for Latin music started when she was around 30 and living in Osaka. “The band Orchestra de la Luz was very popular and became famous in South America and New York,” she recalls. “I knew a few band members. Salsa was very popular in Osaka at that time.”
Nakai’s emerging passion took her to Cuba in 1997 and then to New York, where she played Latin music and learned a lot from the music of Cuban pianists Emiliano Salvador and Ernan Lopez-Nussa. “They played everything, especially Emiliano,” Nakai says. “He was a kind of icon of Cuban Latin jazz.”
Nakai performs at Jazz at Kitano on Oct. 29. “I have been playing there on a consistent basis for six or seven years and that place has made me progress,” she says. “Gino, the manager, gives me a chance every year. He trusts me to play there and I want to give my appreciation back to him―with my music.”
Japanese pop music’s melodies are very similar to Latin music, “with minor chords” in particular, Nakai explains. “The feelings are the same. Latin music is sentimental, sometimes melancholy. It’s not really a happy, joyful thing.”
Many of her Latin jazz compositions are influenced by Afro-Cuban music, Nakai adds. “I love Cuban music and I love Salsa.” Nakai’s main influence is Latin music, but the melody and flavor of her work is Japanese pop music. Nakai was introduced to jazz in her 20s, and then to Latin music. “Now, I somehow combine everything,” she reflects. “Latin jazz, Latin melodies and rhythms in my music are a result of my journey.”
Combining is a Japanese characteristic. “Japanese people are good at absorbing and studying other cultures,” Nakai explains. “Japanese pop music is influenced by American pop songs as well as Latin music.” And Nakai loves the Yellowjackets. “Their music is not complicated,” she says. “The melody is simple and very catchy. Some people might not like it because of that. Some people might think this is not jazz. But I really love the simple, touching melody and the nice arrangements. I love Bob Mintzer.”
Nakai’s upcoming Kitano performance features her quartet with saxophonist and flutist Justin Flynn. “Justin puts my music on another level,” Nakai says. “Of course, I am a composer and I decide what I am doing in my music, but now we create together. We make music together. If I can’t do this range, he suggests another direction that makes me think, and which is very surprising and new.”
Nakai is used to thinking of all the melodies on her own, but recently, she has realized she “wants to hear another melody.” And she loves “the sound of the tenor and soprano sax,” she explains. “Another important part of Flynn’s talent is that he can play the flute,” Nakai adds. “The flute is very good for Latin music. And sometimes I can hear that my music needs the flute.”
Nakai, who has released the albums Transformation (2014) and bridges (2008), now wants to take her career to the next level and is eager to play at some festivals.
Pianist Chiemi Nakai performs at Jazz at Kitano on Oct. 29 with her new quartet featuring Justin Flynn on saxophone and flute, Carlo De Rosa on bass and Vince Cherico, drums.
Check the video; August 21st. 2014, Jazz At Kitano, NYC
Chiemi Nakai(p) Trio with Carlo De Rosa(b), Joel Mateo(ds)
"Fiesta A La King
Nihonkai Post / August 29, 2014
Chiemi Nakai, a Jazz pianist, from NYC will perform at her hometown, Yonago on September 21st.
Chiemi Nakai is a Latin Jazz pianist, an arranger and a composer who is native in Yonago, now lives in New York City, will perform in her hometown on September 21st. She was raised in the area near the Kaike Beach where you can overlook a view of Mt. Daisen. She describes that her music is a blend of Jazz, Latin music and Japanese-Pop with a feeling of nostalgia to Kaike. She will be on stage to express her deep appreciation for people in her hometown.
After graduation from Kwansei Gakuin University via Yonago East High School, she had opportunities playing with a quite few Jazz and Salsa bands in Osaka. In 1998, she moved to New York City and went to Queens College of CUNY and obtained a Master’s Degree In Jazz Performance in 2002. After the graduation, She formed her own band and has been performing actively. She also has an experience performing at Weil Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall.
Currently she has continued performing at NYC’s prestigious Jazz clubs such as Blue Note. This triumphal return performance is arranged by a special committee that her high school mates voluntary aided. Also she will give a performance at the reunion party of Yonago East High School on the day before yesterday.
Ms. Nakai says, “I’d love to show my appreciation to the great nature that harmonized with Mt.Daisen and the Kaike Beach, my loving parents and those who have been supporting me since my childhood. I would be more than happy if I could deliver all my humble feelings through my music.
The show will start at Nagirax Loft at 1pm on September 21st. The address is 6 Hatagasaki-Cho Yonago. The trio is with a bassist, a percussion player and herself. The admission is 3000 yen including one drink. The tickets are available at Yonago Convention Center.
Released mini album in October 2014 "Transformation"
For Purchase / Contact to; firstname.lastname@example.org / $10
2) The flying gray cat
3) I will meet you again
4) Transformation 1
5) Heaven is here
All are copyrighted by Chiemi Nakai music in 2013
Pedro Giraudo(b) & Francis Benitez(ds)...1,2,5
Luques Curtis(b) & Mauricio Herrera(ds)...3
Recording engineer...Kamilo Kratc www.soundworksrecording.com/
Photographer....Andrew Steinman www.andewsteinman.com