Born: August 10, 1960 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
Japanese Smooth Jazz artist Shigeki Kawahara, you could say, is an internet success story that continues to be told. A very accomplished keyboardist/pianist, he began recording music in 1995 and released his first CD (and to date only full album) “Another World” in 2005. He had been doing music on the side while his day job as an economist takes him around the world. The convenience of the internet however, allowed him to release his music via the world wide web, catching the attention of FM DJs abroad. The album was an online success leading Shigeki to form the jazz trio TIG (Three In the Groove) with Toru Ishiwata (guitar) and Hiroki Ide (drums). Previews of their music can be heard online on his myspace and lastfm pages. Kawahara’s and TIG’s music is reminiscent of smooth jazz legends like Joe Sample, Bob James and FourPlay. (original review by “DJ Aki” of JIN Radio)
Shigeki Kawahara was born in Albany, New York, USA in 1960. One year later, he moved to Japan. He began learning the piano at age three.
In 1972, he bought an album of Quincy Jones named “Smackwater Jack”. This album turned him to Jazz music. It was really fascinating for him to listen to such rich and jazzy arrangement he had never listened to before. Ever since then, he became a long time big fan of Quincy. He learned many cool sounds of musical instruments such as Rhodes Electric piano, Mini Moog, Hammond B-3, Solina String Ensemble, and many more.
During his high school age, he joined a brass band where he had experiences in playing trumpets and saxophones. In that brass band, he became more like an arranger/ band leader than a horn player, practicing arrangement of bigband, and learning characteristics of different horn instruments. You can see, he was already a “Quincy-wanna-bee”.
In his first 3 years in college (1979-82), he was most active and busy as a keyboard and piano player mostly in live performance. He was playing with a 9-piece jazz/ fusion combo around 50 live sessions per year. At the time, Joe Sample and Herbie Hancock were (sure, they still are) his idle. “Rhodes Piano” was a main keyboard. Even now, Rhodes sound is a basic ingredient of his sound arrangement.
During 1979-1983, he had one regular place to play solo jazz piano. The place was a small cozy bar restaurant in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo. Every Wednesday and Friday night, he played mellow standard jazz tunes there. A grand piano was placed in the very center of the restaurant and it was surrounded by a big bar table. He was playing almost face to face with the audience.
In August 1983, he went back to Albany, New York. He joined Graduate School in State University of New York at Albany for Master’s degree in public economics and policy. Well, this was the period he studied most in his life. Where was Jazz? In Albany, there was an old jazz place called “Gemini Jazz Cafe”. Every once in a while, he went there and enjoyed listening to and playing jam session.
In August 1985, he’s got MA degree and came back to Japan. In April 1986, started working as an economist for an international consulting organization (and he still is). This makes him traveling around the world for over 200 days a year. For a while, he managed to play with a local jazz band “EM2” in Yokohama, Japan, for live performance. Later in the middle of 1990s, he became way too busy to be a regular pianist. He had to stop live performance…
Music, however, continues to be his “Another World”. Around the corners of Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Makassar, Lusaka, Rabat (Morocco), and wherever possible, he pops into small bars with the piano and “play it again”.
Thanks to up-to-date technology in recording using Macintosh and MOTU Performer, now he can produce recording works of his own tunes with layers of rich sound of arrangement. He has always wanted to be “Quincy”. Internet and nice people like CD Baby and iTunes Store made it possible for him to share his feelings of sound all around the world. People from Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, and many other places (I never met them!) had already purchased his album. Fascinating…isn’t it?
Awards:"Belive" by Sumire, arranged by Shigeki Kawahara, Grand Prix at "Pizza Hut Band Contest 2007".
Record Label: CD Baby. Also available from iTunes Store and Amazon Download.
Released on December 29th, 2005
Tracks: The Streamliner; Snap Out of It; Night Flight; Jam of Q; Midtown Blues; I Don't Know Why and How; Bigband Blues; Another World.
“Another World” has been constantly on the play lists of Jazz Radio stations in USA and Europ including Bay Smooth Jazz (1.FM) and SwissGroove. Yes, he is a Japanese. But his music is appreciated by wide varieties of listners from all over the world. The style of music is very smooth, polished, and still suprisingly soulful. It is more of a groove of contemporary jazz rather than smooth jazz. If you like “fusion style in ’70s-80s” such as music of Joe Sample, you will like this album as well.
Peter Boehi, DJ of SmoothVibes Radio wrote:
"I added your track "Night Flight" to our playlist because it fits very well and I like the vintage touch of the song."
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