Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guest from New York

A while back, my billiards friend Naoki-san introduced me to his NYC-based friend Yuichi Hirakawa. Yuichi is a talented drummer who graduated from Berklee and have been playing in the city for over 14 years, often performing with the world-famous guitarist Masuo. He happened to be visiting the Bay Area this week so I asked him to play at Sumika on February the 3rd. We are musicians - I couldn't just ask him to stop by to see the show. You have to play together!

Then I wondered who else I should call for this show. Since it's a guest from NYC, I asked pianist Lee Pardini, a graduate from Manhattan School of Music, to have a flavor from the city. Together with the little fact that I was born in New York, we could call it an instant "New York Trio".

Matt Toshima was so kind as always to let me use his studio's drum kit. When I arrived at Sumika a bit early to set up the instruments, Yuichi was already there. "You must be Okada-san. Nice to meet you." He was a friendly and cool looking guy. As we set up the equipments, Lee showed up with his keyboard. Everything was getting ready. I had a mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement, and already knew that it was going to be a great night.

Starting the show from 7:30pm, we played 9 standard tunes such as "How High the Moon", "How Insensitive" and "All of You". It was such an enjoyable session that we felt it so short. Yuichi's steady groove was so easy to play with, and it often allowed me to comfortably take risks to expand ideas on bass lines and phrases. Although the drum kit was a very basic set of bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and one cymbal, he kept generating sophisticated phrases. He was cool enough to say "I used to play heavily in subway stations. This kit is just like the one I used then. Perfect for me."

Lee on keyboard was on fire too, with his signature accuracy in time and mastery in various chords. With a soloist this good, all you have to do is to provide simpler bass lines that actually result in greater performance quality.

Lee and Yuichi even had common friends in the city, and there were many venues both of them knew. I recalled about when I was visiting there several years ago - a friend of mine took me to a bar in Greenwich Village featuring a band just like us: keyboard, bass and drums. It was such a wonderful night that I almost felt as if we were playing in a club in New York!

So I'm going to spend some entries to introduce some captured moments from this great gig. Stay tuned!

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