Distance isn’t supposed to matter for performers anymore. Skype and MP3s, Dropbox, the cloud, YouTube and other digital purveyors make far-flung collaborations as easy as a mouse click. But for musicians who thrive on actually performing in front of audiences the distance between the coasts can feel longer than ever.
On any given night one can find a handful of jazz gigs in Berkeley interesting enough to coax even a casual fan out of the house. But this Sunday offers something altogether rare with a convergence of two events that auger well for the future of the scene.
What started as a one-off fundraiser for the people of northern Japan stricken by the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 has turned into a musical mission of healing and remembrance. When drummer Akira Tana, bassist Ken Okada and flutist/saxophonist Masaru Koga first came together in the summer of 2011 at Fairfax’s Elsewhere Gallery, they brought in jazz arrangements of traditional Japanese songs, some dating back centuries. The music was so powerful that they ended up presenting it to stricken communities in Japan last year, and Sunday afternoon’s California Jazz Conservatory performance will raise funds for the trio’s return trip in July.
Akira Tana’s affinity for James Bond makes perfect sense when you think about it. A suave and sophisticated drummer with a killer sense of time, Tana quietly infiltrated the Bay Area after some two decades in New York City playing with the baddest cats on the scene. He’s a supremely musical drummer whose persuasive sense of swing leaves a band stirred but not shaken.