Renowned jazz composer Toshiko Akiyoshi and other prominent musicians will play a March 11, 2012, Benaroya Hall concert to raise money to replace schools' musical instruments lost in the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. Joining the "Winds for Hope" effort: Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto, Eric Miyashiro, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin and the Washington Wind Ensemble.
The colossal earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of Japan a year ago this Sunday caused more than 15,000 deaths and a nuclear disaster the country is still recovering from.
Among the many collateral casualties was the destruction of hundreds of schools, along with all their musical instruments.
“My friends in Japan told me 1,560 schools were affected to some degree,” says Timothy Salzman, director of the University of Washington Wind Ensemble and a frequent visitor to Japan.
Salzman came up with the idea of a benefit concert on the anniversary of the tsunami to raise money for musical instruments. “Winds for Hope,” presented Sunday at Benaroya Hall by the Japan American Society and the Japan Business Association of Seattle, is the result. The show features a stunning array of musicians — classical in the first half, jazz in the second.
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Jazz fans will be especially pleased to see 2007 NEA Jazz Master Toshiko Akiyoshi on the bill. Thanks to such works as her 2001 requiem for victims of the atomic bomb, “Hiroshima: Rising From the Abyss,” Akiyoshi is regarded as one of the finest composers in jazz. For years, she and her husband, saxophonist Lew Tabackin, led a swinging modern big band, but nine years ago she announced she was putting aside the large group to concentrate on solo piano.
Akiyoshi and Tabackin perform here with bassist Chuck Kistler and drummer Greg Williamson, then join forces with the Winds for Hope big band, assembled by Seattle trombonist Chris Amemiya using Seattle hotshots such as Thomas and David Marriott and Jay Thomas. The big band will play Akiyoshi’s chart, “Hope,” and serve as a showcase for high-note trumpet sensation Eric Miyashiro, a veteran of the Buddy Rich and Woody Herman bands.
The big band’s bass trombone chair will be filled by Seattle Symphony principal Ko-Ichiro Yamamoto, who was instrumental in getting Akiyoshi and Miyashiro on the bill. Yamamoto is featured with Saltzman’s wind ensemble, which will perform pieces by Bert Appermont, Steven Verhelst, Philip Sparke and the world premiere of “Journey of Gratitude,” by Japanese composer Satoshi Yasigawa, who grew up in the Tohoku region.
Salzman estimates there are 14,500 wind ensembles (also called concert bands) in Japan.
“All the major corporations have bands,” he explained. “Playing in band as an after-school activity is hugely popular.”
Hopefully, after Sunday, the people of Japan will feel some “winds for hope” blowing across the Pacific.
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org