Itaru Oki 沖至

Itaru OKI (Chong Zhi,) (1941-202020) Itaru Okayi was one of the most important players in the creation of Japanese free jazz in Tokyo. He led his own power trio, and collaborated with other influential names such as percussionist Masahiko Tgashi and bassist Keiki Miorikawa. Oki left Japan in 1974 to live in France. He was a generous and active collaborator with European and American players such as Noah Howard, Francois Tusques and Linda Sharrock. Oki’s constant drive to push himself further, further from his starting point was his driving force throughout his entire life. It is evident in his life’s journey, and you can hear it in his endless trumpet notes. It’s also visible in the classic cover photo of his 1976 album Mirage. Oki, wearing boots and fur coat, a knitted cap over his forehead, a trumpet over his shoulder, and holding a cigarette in his hand, leans pensively against the massive metal lantern at a Japanese temple. Oki takes a moment to reflect before he goes off to explore the territories. Oki, like many founders of Japanese free music (Masahiko Takagi, Sabu Toyozumi and Masahiko Satoh), was born in wartime. Born in Kobe in 1941, Oki lived next to Fumio Nanri (Japan’s first jazz trumpeter), who was born in Shanghai in the 1930s. Nanri taught Oki how to hold a trumpet and form his first embouchure. Oki arrived in Tokyo in 1965. He quickly progressed through Dixieland, bebop and finally found a place amongst the jazz experimentalists. Oki was a member, along with Satoh, of the Japanese free jazz unit ESSG. He first toured Europe in 1969. He formed his own trio soon after with drummer Hozumi Taka and bassist and cellist Keiki Miorikawa. A series of LPs he released with the trio, and later under his own label, were both ingenious (one of his first albums features a trumpet solo that is played into a bowl filled with water), and ambitiously restless. Oki was attracted to Togashi’s unique’speed-and-space’ approach to rhythmic development in free jazz. He used a similar oceanic pulse for early albums such as Satsujin Kyoshitsu, Classroom For Murderers, and Genso Note (Phantom Note). Oki was able to get into the European jazz scene through Alan Silva once he had settled down in Europe. Oki was a pioneer in the revolutionary musical pedagogy that Silva’s Institut Art Culture Perception (IACP) taught in Paris in 1976. He was an inspired and frequent player in Silva’s and IACP’s projects, such as The Texture Sextet or The Celestial Communication Orchestra. Although he performed on many horns and woodwind instruments he was also a skilled trumpet builder. He could make instruments with one or two bells, as well as at odd angles. Oki had a close relationship to Japan despite his extended stay in France and his involvement in European free improv. Oki would always return to Japan in the fall, in order to record and tour extensively with the older players as well as with younger musicians. Interview with Teruto Soejima, jazz critic, about the sleevenotes of his first LP Satsujin Kyoshitsu (1970), Oki stated prophetically: “I want keep moving forward so that decades from now even if my hair is gone, I still want be playing new music.” Source:

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