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Genzo Okabe


  • Type CD
  • Label Challenge Records
  • UPC 0608917344226
  • Catalog number CR 73442
  • Release date 05 May 2017
Physical (CD)

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About the album

Disoriental is a musical exploration and expression of the complexity of identity. As an expatriate artist who has been living as a minority in different places for most of his lifetime, Okabe attempts to critically approach the versatility and universality of jazz, a genre that absorbs all kinds of external elements to form its shape anew.

Since its birth in the United States with black music at its heart, jazz has been incorporated into music education all over the world. This institutionalization has certainly helped spread musical knowledge and techniques, making many people familiar with jazz and contributing to the development of jazz performances and productions. On the other hand, since a sort of structure and control are an inevitable part of institutionalization, the more systematic the curriculum, the more our thinking process necessarily suffers from standardization. As a result, artists start to de-emphasize musical creativity and only become excited at opportunities to show off their virtuosity in performance, not the expression of their own unique, personal identity.

The universal dissemination and worldwide popularity of jazz music can largely be explained by its versatility. Indeed, in contrast to representational music, which requires accurate interpretation and expression of pieces elaborately constructed by great composers of the past, what jazz took as its major subjects from its dawning to its heyday in the 1950s were contemporary hit songs, the so-called American standards that people could memorize easily and sing together. This familiarity, this approachability, is the signature versatility of jazz, and it opened a space for exploration where artists could develop and translate their own improvisations and arrangements into various new artistic forms. This musical freedom makes it possible for artists from all over the world to pursue their own identity in the nation of immigrants, and it is how jazz fused with countless other types of music—from folk traditions including Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Gypsy, Flamenco, and Klezmer music to rock, electronic, and, of course, Western classical music—to produce new musical shapes, one after another.

One of the clearest characteristics of Disoriental is the use of suspended chords. Conventionally, suspension is either major or minor in Western counterpoint. However, in most folk music traditions around the world, five sounds can be found, and their universality actually has a very deep relationship with the versatility of jazz. Starting from this premise, Okabe pursues the possibility of a pentatonic “scale” unique to Japanese traditional music—consisting of 1, b9, 4, 5, 7—in an attempt to reproduce the five notes in a way that does not correspond to the conventional heptatonic scale in the well temperament system. Through this process of seeking musical originality, Asian identity is mixed with jazz and Western music to produce a unique, unfamiliar, Disoriental music.

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