Born: 1972 Primary Instrument: Percussion
Wynn Yamami began his taiko studies with the San Jose Junior Taiko Group and later trained with Soh Daiko, Kiyonari Tosha of the Nihon Taiko Dojo, Takada Yosuke of the Tokyo Chindon Club, the Tachibana School of Nihon Buyou, and ethnomusicologist Terada Yoshitaka. Now based in New York City, he has performed with a wide variety of musicians including Arturo O'Farrill and the Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Badal Roy, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jason Kao Hwang, Sang Won Park, Rob Brown, Daniel Levin and Korn at such venues as Issue Project Room, Galapagos, Birdland, Merkin Concert Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has performed taiko and percussion for theater and dance productions at the NYC Fringe Festival and the United Nations and has appeared in television commercials and programs for the US Open, Anime Network, Iron Chef, and MTV Unplugged. When he is not performing with KIOKU, Wynn straps on the portable Japanese drum unit (chindon) with HAPPYFUNSMILE, a group devoted to Japanese street music, enka, bon-odori tunes, and Okinawan rock.
Kioku's new album _Both Far and Near_ is fiercely aggressive in its crusade for a powerful, liberated music that takes the great tradition of free jazz and steeps it in Japanese spirituality. Combining Taiko drum (Wynn Yamami), a massive instrument initially used on the battlefield, with saxophone (Ali Sakkal), electronics (Christopher Ariza) and other percussion, the trio immediately gives off a sense of outrageous liberation. Track one, Pinari, is an adaptation of a Korean prayer song. The tune's tribal drumming pokes through long, abrasive saxophone lines while reverberating steel washes over it and electronics sweep the area clear with warped bursts. The group takes on John Coltrane's The Drum Thing, interpreting Elvin Jones with meditative reverence. Percussion and electronics wrap gently around Sakkal's saxophone before embarking on their own textured, rhythmic venture. Binalig features a mesh of gongs, hollow percussive sounds and the muffled chaos of a crowd, resulting in a brilliant track where fantastical rhythm dances with reality and atmosphere moves from frenzied turmoil to moody serenity. At times incredibly tribal, or futuristic, _Both Far and Near_ takes an ancient tradition and infuses it with vast doses of the new.