Tag Archives: Akira Tana

Jazz blooms in Berkeley with a rich choice of performers

Marcus Shelby
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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.

From noon to 5 p.m., the Berkeley High jazz program’s 20th annual Jazz on Fourth Street fundraiser turns the shopping district into a music-filled street party. And at the David Brower Center from 2-5 p.m., Jazz in the Neighborhood celebrates its second anniversary with a fundraiser and concert featuring the lustrous vocalist Clairdee, pianist Ken French, bassist Marcus Shelby, trumpeter (and Berkeley High alum) Erik Jekabson, pianist Glen Pearson, saxophonist/flutist Mary Fettig, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and drummer Hamir Atwal. … Continue reading »

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Otonowa plays Berkeley: To Japan, With Love

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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.

“We played in communities that aren’t there any more, at temporary shopping centers and housing units,” says the Palo Alto-raised Tana, whose father Daisho Tana led the Berkeley Buddhist Temple at 2121 Channing Way in the 1930s. “These songs hit home. You realize what a healing force for the spirit music can be, and it reminds me of why we got into doing this stuff.”  … Continue reading »

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Akira Tana’s Secret Agent Band plays 007

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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.

After an illustrious career as a first-call accompanist, the San Jose-born, Palo Alto-raised Tana has gradually taken to spearheading his own high concept projects. His 2011 album “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (Sons of Sound) explores title themes from James Bond films, covering four decades of pop cultural artifacts from the era of Mad Men to the twilight of the Clinton Administration. With songs like “Nobody Does It Better,” “Live and Let Die” and “Gold Finger” set to an enticing array of rhythms, James Bond has never sounded so hip.

“It’s really in the jazz tradition to take pop songs and movie music and reimagine them,” says Tana, 60, who presents the Secret Agents at the Freight on Thursday. “Jazz players are constantly looking for new material to interpret.” … Continue reading »

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