Jizue (pronounced G-zoo) may be one of those bands where, years later when they are huge and everyone knows them, their early fans will say with pride, “We got to see them up close in small live clubs before anybody knew about them.” They have a devoted following that they will no doubt carry forward with them as they increasingly venture out of Kyoto to venues across Japan that have enabled jam music to thrive. Anyone who sees them for the first time—their passion on stage, their sophisticated playing—will likely become a fan. They’re so good they at least demand respect.

They have admittedly benefitted from the groundwork that fellow Kyoto instrumental band Nabowa has done, establishing fan bases at small venues throughout Japan where Jizue often plays as well. The two bands are signed to the same label, Bud Music, Inc., which has a great network. But it would be unfair to say that Jizue is riding Nabowa’s coattails. The band’s growing success is due to its own talent, originality and hard work.

The way is never easy for underground bands signed to independent labels in Japan (or anywhere in the world, for that matter), even with YouTube obliterating many obstacles to gaining wider exposure. Jizue has struggled and if anything has given them the strength to push through the hardships of being professional musicians still at their start, it’s a shared love for music.

Katagi Kie (piano), Inoue Noriyuki (guitar), Yamada Go (bass) and Kokawa Shin (drums) have been playing music since their early youth—Katagi, in fact, since she was three. Natives of Shiga prefecture, they all played instruments in middle school, and in bands in high school. Around 2006 Inoue and Yamada decided to take themselves seriously and form Jizue, which later added Kokawa. The band gelled around its current members with the addition of Katagi in 2007. A mutual friend of Kokawa’s who played bass invited her one night to jam. Kokawa was there and was impressed enough to invite her to Jizue’s practice session. The chemistry between the four soon became obvious. “She was like glue,” say the other members, noting that the band had previously experienced several changes in its members.

Their practice sessions are their primary space for creative development. The four bring ideas to the studio and work on them if they all like the material.

“We don’t fight,” they nod in agreement, “but we’re quiet when we don’t like something and that’s clear to all of us.”

They draw inspiration from disparate styles and artists, from lesser known musicians like Brian Blade and Robert Glasper to more mainstream acts like Incubus and Radiohead. Yet their style is decidedly hard-driving jazz rock on the stage with good improvisational material included. Some may no doubt think of early Phish in comparison.

Says Katagi, “We’ll sometimes shift the way we play live based on the crowd’s reaction.”

Jizue is always striving to improve their live sound, often watching videos of their performance after a show to evaluate their playing, and always having a hanseikai (reflection meeting).

“We’re also really close to Nabowa and play with them a lot; that provides good creative cross-pollination.”

Their recent CD “Novel” gives fairly good indication of what people can expect from Jizue live, even if it does have some slower-tempo material. The track “Sun” opens with some fine acoustic guitar work followed by bright, lively piano melodies over jazz drumming and standard bass lines. It’s a gentle entry to the next track, “Unnecessary Pain”, which unleashes energy and speed more typical of the band on stage. It’s a complex song with many changes, almost like an epic soundtrack. By the time the song ends, you’re ready for some seriously furious jazz-rock work—and you’ll get it from subsequent songs like “Chaser.” Others like “Hitorinouta” have a lighter, though perhaps not slower, touch. For great easy-listening jazz, the last song “Pray” more than suffices, with echoes of Pat Methany coming through.

Midway through the album, “Kotonoha” introduces some wonderfully harmonizing guest vocals that beg the question, Will they do more of this kind of work? The band enthusiastically notes that they do want to work with vocalists, especially hip-hop, but in due time. They all look at each other as if they are harboring a secret, as if they’ve already got someone lined up.

In the meantime, they just keep grinding it out, traveling Japan on tours and hoping that they can quit their part-time day jobs. The result of their being able to play full time would be incredible. Already, they are an accomplished act that would have no problem holding their own in some of America’s more elite music festivals. It’s a dream they do not forget.

And it’s a reality we may likely see.


同じく京都のインストバンドであるNabowaがそうであったように、Jizueも日本各地の小さなライブハウスなどでの地道な活動の積み重ねでファン層を固めてきた。どちらのバンドも幅広いネットワークを持つ京都のBud Musicというレーベルに所属しているという点でも同じだ。しかしJizueがNabowaの人気にあやかろうとしているという見方は当たっていない。Jizueの人気が出てきたのは独自の力量によるものであり、オリジナリティとたゆまぬ努力によるものだ。

インディーズ・レーベルと契約してアンダーグラウンドの世界から這い上がろうとするバンドの苦労は日本でも世界でも共通で、並大抵ではない。You Tubeなどのお陰でチャンスが増えたといってもそう簡単に売れるものではない。駆け出しのプロとしての苦労を乗り越えるタフさを彼らはどうやって手にしたか。それは音楽に対するメンバー共通の情熱のお陰だ。







2ndアルバム「Novel」にはスローな感じの曲も入っているが基本的にはいつもの彼らのライブ感を満載した作風に仕上がっている。“Sun”という曲は美しいアコースティックギターの音色で始まり、そこにジャズっぽいドラムと淡々としたベースラインに乗って生き生きとしたピアノが入ってくる、比較的穏やかで明るい曲調だが、続くナンバー“Unnecessary Pain”はライブで彼らがよく見せるような爆発的なエネルギーとスピード感に満ちている。めまぐるしく変化する複雑なアレンジは大作映画のサウンドトラックのようでもある。そして続く”Chaser”も激しいジャズロック的な作品。一方、“Hitorinouta”という曲はスローではないものの、いくぶん軽めのタッチになっている。そしてアルバムのラストを飾る”Pray”はパット・メセニーを思わせる素晴らしいイージーリスニングジャズに仕上げている。



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