East-West Jazz Alliance brings Japanese music to Bellevue College – The Watchdog

The first concert of the school
year, the East West Jazz Alliance, began fall quarter with an amazing display
of the talents of both the Bellevue College Big Band and the various guest players
that featured in the event. Over the course of the one and a half hour
performance, the sweeping melodies of trombone, saxophone, and piano filled the
rainy fall night. The incredible concert occurred on Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets cost $5 for BC students and $15 for others.

The East West Jazz Alliance, with a
focus on Japanese music and artists, began with a lively rendition of Have a
Havana. As the night wore on, the band played a myriad of other songs, such as “The
Blues Story”, “Purple Heart”, “The Sukiyaki Song”, and “Dear Pop Jay.” Many prominent
Japanese musicians, such as Yasuhiro Kohama, Atsushi Ikeda, Yuki Hirate, Phil Sparks,
and Daisuke Kurata played alongside the Big Band. Vocalist Maya Hatch, an
acclaimed Japanese musician who has written over 20 songs, sang along to “The
Sukiyaki Song.” Jay Thomas, a famed jazz artist, also featured in the East West
Jazz Alliance. “When you introduce yourself, being from Seattle, everyone says:
‘Do you know Jay Thomas?’” conductor Jim Sisko laughs, before continuing, “If
you wouldn’t mind putting your hands together for Mr. Jay Thomas—”

After several songs with the Big
Band and a brief intermission, the soloists played several ensembles together.
They played through several songs, including “Unladylike” and a Japanese song
that roughly translates to “Prayer.”

“We are so happy to be here,” Jay
Thomas gushed between songs, “I’m playing with these guys and I love them so
much.”

In fact, both the audience and the
players seemed to be enjoying themselves. The music was full of energy and
personality; the audience clapped, cheered, and laughed along with the performers.
The building, the audience, and the band itself were all transformed by the
music.

“Music is funny,” Sisko said.
“That’s a really hard trumpet solo, and he’s never nailed it once in rehearsal.
And he totally crushed it today.”

Finally, as the spectacular closing
to the East West Jazz Alliance, both the Big Band and the guest artists
performed Maya Hatch’s “Together.” She explains, “I wrote it because when I
moved to Japan, I felt… kind of a disconnect with other humans. I feel that we
should be seeing each other as part of the same family.” As if to demonstrate,
as the final conclusion to both the song and the concert, the singer invited
both the audience and the rest of the band to sing parts of the song along with
her.

After the show ended, members of
the East West Jazz Alliance had tables set up, giving the audience
opportunities to buy their CDs or meet them in person.

All around, the East West Jazz
Alliance was an amazing taste of the world of jazz-musicians, conductors, and
songs—in both Japan and Seattle.

“That’s the beauty of this music,
jazz,” Sisko said, “it’s a hundred years old and it sounds like it could have
been written yesterday.”

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