Interview with Miho Hazama: I like having logical concepts on compositions: Video

Jazz interview with jazz conductor and composer Miho Hazama. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Miho Hazama: – I started going to a music school at around age 3, and started learning piano, electric organ and composition by age 7.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

MH: – I grew up with a family of music lovers. My father is a big Beatles fan, my mother used to listen to a lot of disco music, jazz and rock music (Eric Clapton etc.), my grandfather is a collector of Beethoven music – so I listened to various genres of music. The biggest influence when I was a kid, though, was classical music, especially symphonic music. I used to play symphonic music on electric organ, and I learned so much of orchestrations and composition skills from that experience.

When I get a music college in Tokyo as a classical composition student, I happened to go to a college big band concert, and I fell in love with their sound immediately. That’s how I started playing jazz piano, and how I met compositions by my heroes such as Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely and Vince Mendoza etc. After studying jazz composition with Jim McNeely at Manhattan School of Music, I thought that my signature sound in my head is a combination of jazz music and symphonic sound. So I decided to get a jazz chamber orchestra together, and it’s called m_unit.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

MH: – I used to do a lot of solfège trainings when I was in a music mid-high, high school and college. Not recently. But I like to analyze music.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

MH: – Out put of what goes on, most of the time. Except the times where I have a solid concept /  limited rule for it.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

MH: – I am interested in various cultural influences, and I categorize as “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. I try my best to keep my sense sharp.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MH: – I like having logical concepts on compositions, but at the same time, I always keep in mind that I would love to entertain people through my music.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

MH: – What do they want…? As long as that’s what I can do, I would love to.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

MH: – Our first track of the album, “Today, not Today” – This title was inspired by a nephew of m_unit’s Baritone saxophonist, Andrew Gutauskas. When we had a show before the recording, I told audience that I would love to hear what they think about a title of this piece because I didn’t have a title at the moment. Then Andrew’s nephew gave me a paper with so many words that he came up with after listening to the piece. That was very sweet.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

MH: – They don’t necessarily have to listen to only jazz standard tunes. Jazz is so alive, and now developing to collaborate with other cultures.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

MH: – I very much agree with Mr. Coltrane. Music is something that I can explain my soul and feelings without words, and I much prefer that than saying.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

MH: – Destroy drug addictions and any discrimination.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

MH: – Listening to what? Music? If so, it’s always my favorite thing to do.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

MH: – It depends on a piece, but in general, as long as people can enjoy my music in their own way somehow, I am happy.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

MH: – Seventeen century in Japan. A lot of Samurai dramas, and that’s my favorite era in Japanese history.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

MH: – I don’t know you personally so I have no clue. Hope to see you in person in the future.

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. I don’t know you personally, too … 

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

MH: – I don’t understand what you mean, but it was a fun interview. Thanks.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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