The Beginning of a Story
"In high school, I used to listen to jazz pianist Makoto Ozone's radio program every week. At the end he'd usually improvise a tune based on whatever thought he had in his head at that particular time. You know, just look out the window and score the music to that particular scene, right there and then. I remember being completely amazed every time he did it.
That's how it all started. I had been curious about music as a child, but I was 20 by the time I really sat down behind the piano. "
"I didn't know very much about what jazz was back then. Improvisation, I thought, was sort of like writing a diary but with notes on a music sheet and then sitting down at the piano and play what you just had written. Like a poet scribbling down a poem and then reading it out loud. I really wanted to try writing music that way and I bought some blank music sheets, really expensive ones, and went home and sat down. I wrote maybe three notes... do - fa - la.... And then that was that. It didn't work at all. The thought that you would just sit down and play an instrument off the top of your head, that thought hadn't even entered my mind yet.
Later on, this urge or need to make songs started to grow, like I just had to do it. I was listening to a lot of jazz albums, I was reading books about jazz, and though I still didn't get much about improvisation, it got me thinking about how to learn how to improvise."
"Two years after I graduated high school I convinced my parents to let me take piano lessons. It wasn't easy though. They had always discouraged me when it came to music and the piano teacher I had found told my parents I was too old to start playing the piano, that nothing good would come out of it. But I really wanted to learn, and though I had no real idea of what I was doing, I wrote a few small pieces of music and handed them to this teacher and he changed his mind right there and then. I started taking lessons together with one of his other students, a seven year old boy.
Soon I was learning classical piano, music theory and sight reading and then went on to study classical music at the university. There, for the first time, I studied pieces where the composers used music to illustrate words or sentences, to say what they wanted to say with music. That's when I knew I had found my musical compass. Jazz, latin, or any other genre, what I am always striving for is to make the music speak. Even if it's only eight bars of a solo phrase, that's the way I think about music.
I was lucky to be able to study classical music at the university, but what I really wanted to do was to just look out the window and go: 'Okay, it's raining. Let's improvise something rainy'. That's why I got seriously into jazz."