36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022

Hikashu feat. Itaru Oki


Makigami Koichi - voc, theremin, cornet, shakuhachi, hichiriki
Mita Freeman - g
Sakaide Masami - b
Shimizu Kazuto - p, synth, bcl
Sato Masaharu – dr
Itaru Oki - tp

Hikashu, one of the leading Japanese groups, has already enthralled Vilnius Jazz audience with its exuberant Japanese-flavoured performance of indescribable genre in 2012. The group has kept intriguing the world with its spontaneous experiments and out-of-format improvisations for almost four decades.

Hikashu was established in 1978 by professional actors Makigami Koichi and Mita Freeman. While on stage they act as actors prompting the audience to become participants of improvised mini spectacles. The audience is encouraged to build own scenarios and characters.

The tandem has stayed together since the study years. They both got fascinated with music when working on their theatre production and instead of forming a theatre company they decided to turn to rock – in the beginning Hikashu was ascribed to this genre.

Their first single At the End of the 20 Century brought great recognition around Japan. After bassist Sakaide Masami joined the group the musicians got even freer. A year later boosted by experienced improvisers Shimizu Kazuto and Sato Masaharu, Hikashu’s experiments became even more daring.

Ten-Ten, an album released in 2005, was dominated by improvised music. Recently, Hikashu has been often appearing on jazz scene; regularly participating in Yokohama Jazz Promenade and Jazz Art Sengawa jazz festivals; touring in Russia, Germany, Canada and the USA. The group’s discography amounts to 25 albums released in Japan.

Hikashu is the main creative laboratory of Makigami Koichi, one of the most original Japanese vocalists and multi-instrumentalists. His improvisations include elements of rock, avant-garde and Japanese music. He is one of the most representative Japanese performers of Tuvan throat singing, mesmerising audiences with the diapason and expressiveness of his vocal.

Makigami Koichi is at ease with diverse vocal techniques and instruments. He has collaborated with a number of artists and musicians such as Derek Bailey, Ikue Mori, Lawren Newton, Fred Frith, Phil Minton, David Moss, Tom Cora, Takahashi Yuji, Otomo Yoshihide, Anthony Coleman, Umezu Kazutoki and Carl Stone.

He also initiates solo projects featuring interactive computer technologies, vocal improvisations, theatre and performance elements as well as ancient Japanese popular music based on avant-pop.

Makigami Koichi’s solo album Koroshi No Blues (1992) was produced and released on Tzadik label by John Zorn, the celebrated advocate of avant-garde. Since 1993, Makigami Koichi has organised John Zorn improvisation sessions COBRA in Tokyo. Also, he is a co-producer and a main curator of an avant-garde jazz festival Jazz Art Sengawa in Tokyo.

Guitarist, composer and recording produced Mita Freeman is the other front man of Hikashu, along with Makigami Koichi. Past summer together with his groups he has flamboyantly celebrated his 60th anniversary in Tokyo. His first group, called Lu Inch, was formed in 1977 and continues to this day featuring guitarist and vocalist Iwah, bassist Sakaide Masami and drummer Sensui Toshiro.

He also leads Lipnitz 21, an improvised music trio, involving bassist Hayakawa Takeharu and drummer Yoshigaki Yasuhiro. In addition, Mita Freeman enjoys American jazz standards, which he plays in duo Freeman Alley with pianist Shimizu Kazuto, a member of Hikashu.

Bassist Sakaide Masami has worked with Hikashu since 1982, and hasn’t left the group even after moving to Germany in the 80s. Now residing in Tokyo, he has been active as a composer and sound designer for TV and theatre.

Multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Shimizu Kazuto is at home in progressive rock, pop, jazz and improvised music. Sought after musician also leads his own groups Arepos and Precambrian Clarinet Quartet.

Percussionist, composer and vocalist Sato Masaharu made his debut as a drummer in progressive rock group Bi Kyo Ran in his teens. In 2002, he released his debut solo album Tappi in France. Currently, beside various projects he works with his own groups Massa, Bokura No Shizen No Bouken and Kuro Yagi Shiro Yagi.

Trumpeter Itaru Oki is one of the forefathers of the free jazz music scene in Japan. He started to play the trumpet in his high school brass band later becoming a disciple of Fumio Nanri, the celebrated Japanese jazzman.

Itaru Oki was raised in a rich musical environment – his father was a player of the Shakuhachi (Japanese vertical flute) and his mother was a master of the Koto (Japanese horizontal harp) of the Ikuta School. Thus, Oki harnessed not only trumpet and flugelhorn, but also bamboo flutes. Moreover, he likes constructing his own instruments, enjoys experimenting with sonic possibilities of various toys.

In the beginning he chose a technical vocation at the same time playing in Dixieland. Later he joined Mitsuaki Kann group, made his debut in Europe. Before long he started forming his own groups, collaborated with Masahiko Togashi’s seminal experimental Japanese trio ESSG.

In 1974, he settled in France. Often touring in Europe he has though never lost ties with his compatriots. In Germany he has collaborated with dancer Tadashi Endo and pianist Masahiko Sato, also worked with Noah Howard Quartet, played as trio with Michel Pilz and Buschi Niebergall, quartet with Michel Pilz, Christian Ramond and Klaus Kugel. In Paris he sided with a number of European virtuosos including Alan Silva, Kant Carter and Sunny Murray.

Itaru Oki shares in Hikashu’s resourcefulness, unrestrained imagination and humour. 

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