CULT CLASSIC: SHINTARO QUINTET-EVOLUTION.
Cult Classic: Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.
Ever since the mid-fifties, many American jazz musicians journeyed to Japan where they toured and recorded albums. They were respected and treated as series musicians, and when they recorded an album the budget was much more generous and the working conditions far better than they were used to.
It was no surprise that between the late-sixties and early seventies, Art Blakey, Bob James, Gary Peacock, Herbie Hancock and Oliver Nelson either spent lengthy periods living in Japan or decided to live there permanently.
During this period, other American jazz musicians journey to Europe and Scandinavia which became their home-from-home. It was the start of a new chapter in their career as jazz was evolving.
Meanwhile, many Japanese jazz musicians decided to head to the home of jazz. This was where the music that they played and were passionate about was born, evolved and became popular. It was akin to a pilgrimage for musicians like young Japanese jazz musicians like Shintaro Nakamura who arrived in America in the mid-sixties. By 1984, the bassist had founded the Shintaro Quintet who recorded Evolution for Streetnoise Records. By then, he had worked with the great and good of jazz.
Shintaro Nakamura was born in Kobe, in 1956, and discovered jazz music in high school. This came about when one of his classmates brought in a jazz album. For Shintaro Nakamura this was a gamechanger.
Jazz became the soundtrack to daily life for Shintaro Nakamura. For the next three years he played the same records each day. Ella and Louis, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet were the records that started a lifelong love affair with jazz, and especially the bass.
In the early days, Shintaro Nakamura was captivated by Paul Chambers’ bass lines and Red Mitchell’s melodic playing. These two bassists would later influence him as he embarked upon a career as a professional jazz musician.
Having discovered in high school, Shintaro Nakamura was soon hanging out in the jazz kissa, a network of jazz coffeehouses and bars. This was akin to a musical education as he was able to hear an eclectic selection of jazz which was often played on high end stereo systems. Sometimes, he was lucky enough to hear local jazz musicians and occasionally, visiting jazzers from overseas.
After high school, Shintaro Nakamura headed to Kinki University, where he joined the Jazz Studies Group and also learned to play the bass. By 1982, he was too busy with music and dropped out of University.
By then, Shintaro Nakamura had realised there was a limit to the music that he could hear in Japan. He realised that to further his musical education he was going to have to travel to the home of jazz, America.
Shintaro Nakamura decided to study jazz in New York, and while he was there, he decided to write some new compositions. Having played in some jazz sessions he decided that he wanted to record the new tracks.
To do this, he needed to put together a band. By then, Shintaro Nakamura had already played alongside some well known names. This included Larry Carlton, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd and Woody Shaw a couple of times. However, to record his debut album he handpicked a band.
The first recruit was pianist Jeff Jenkins who sounded as if he had been influenced by McCoy Tyner’s percussive blues. He was joined by American-born saxophonist Robert Kenmotsu who previously had been a member of Jack McDuff’s band. He was joined in the front line by thirty-four year old trumpeter Shunzo Ohno. Drummer Fukushi Tainaka was joined in the rhythm section by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura who engineered and produced Evolution at Hi-Five Studio, New York, on the ‘10th’ and ‘13th’ January 1984.
Before the recording sessions, the Shintaro Quintet spent just a day practising. That was all they needed. They were ready to record Evolution at Hi-Five Studio. Evolution took just two days for the Shintaro Quintet to record.
Evolution was an album that had been influenced by the jazz music of the late-fifties and early sixties. This was the music that Shintaro Nakamura heard growing up and had influenced him. He recorded Evolution live and there was no overdubs. Instead, the Shintaro Quintet played together and recorded straight to tape. It was an album of modal jazz that sometimes heads in the direction of hard bop, post bop and avant-garde.
Once the recording of Evolution was complete, Shintaro Nakamura returned home to Japan where he met his friend Hedeki Kawamura who had just founded Streetnoise Records. He was looking for albums that had been recorded in New York to release on his nascent label. Shintaro Nakamura agreed to let his friend release Evolution and the Shintaro Quintet’s debut album became Streetnoise Records’ second release.
Streetnoise Records had 1,000 copies of Evolution pressed. It featured a distinctive diagonal OBI strip across the top left hand corner of the sleeve. The album was sold in local record shops and at concerts.
When jazz fans heard Evolution they discovered and were impressed by an album of original music that was played by the Shintaro Quintet. They were tight, talented and versatile and showcased their considerable talents during the five tracks written by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura. This included Blind Man which closed the album and was a tribute to Woody Shaw who he had played with just before recording Evolution. Sadly, he was almost blind by then and Shintaro Nakamura wrote the track as a tribute to the jazz great. It brought to a close Evolution, the Shintaro Quintet’s J Jazz cult classic which thirty-seven years after its original release is belatedly starting to find a wide audience.
Cult Classic: Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.