NETTAI TROPICAL JAZZ BIG BAND
In 1992 during a dancing tour in South America, I met the members of a band that by then had taken the Salsa world by storm. They were known as "Orchesta De La Luz". As we know by now, all were of Japanese decent. Who would have ever thought at the time of their emergence that an all Japanese band would be playing Latin music!!! It turned out to be a positive new twist to the world of Latin music and dance.
One of the lead singers was Carlos Kanno. For many of us, it was exciting and interesting to see how far Salsa music had traveled and the diversity of people it captured. Orchesta De La Luz was just one example. Nora and Carlos performed for audiences in South America, Europe and the United States to name a few key locations. By the time the band decided to separate, they would record several CDs. Most of their songs are extremely danceable and the band was comprised of excellent musicians. Personally, I appreciated much of their musical selection and always found myself dancing to their tunes in one club or another.
Recently, I met Carlos Kanno during a social function where the RMM record label was introducing new artists. Although we had seen each other many times before, we never had the opportunity to sit down and chat about what he was currently doing in the music world. I told him that I had recently seen his performance at Carnegie Hall where he introduced his new Latin Jazz band. In fact, his band opened for the "JVC Latin Jazz Jam" at Carnegie Hall (produced in association with Ralph Mercado and Jack Hooke). I thought it was a good opportunity to ask for an interview to which he happily agreed. We arranged to meet on July 2, 1999 for a brief chat.
Usually, there is more to a person than what meets the eye. During the course of this interview, you will discover as did I:
July 2, 1999
New York City
Interview: Carlos Kanno
Country of Origin: Japan
Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band
Angel: You and I first met in 1992 in South America during the tour of Tito Puentes 100th album. The audiences in South America embraced you and Orchesta De La Luz. The response was phenomenal. What was that experience like being in South America with an all Japanese band?
Carlos: That was so exciting. Previously we went to Venezuela for the first time in 1991. We performed with Oscar DLeon in the country's biggest stadium. It was incredible for us because we never had never experienced that large a venue before. Before that, we used to play in small clubs for up to 100 people. Imagine suddenly looking at thousands of people in front of you. I remember we didnt have enough experience to draw the energy from the crowd. After the first performance we had a big meeting to figure out how to handle this situation. We didnt speak Spanish at the time. We decided to talk a little bit of Japanese with the audience and maybe teach them a little of the language to involve them in the performance. I believe it worked fine but it took a lot of energy. We learned a lot and we had a great time.
Angel: You have a brand new CD available. Could you tell us about your latest production?
Carlos: The 2nd CD of Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band just came out in the U.S. The title of the CD is September. Our first CD was a live recording done in Yokohama (Japan). For our latest production, I picked some famous tunes such as the theme song from the movie Mission Impossible, and tunes from Earth Wind & Fire such as Getaway. My latest CD has ten songs; five original tunes, one slow cha-cha called Flamingo, one Bolero called Azul and others. The trombone player wrote Azul.
Angel: You recently played at the World famous Carnegie Hall. What are some of your thoughts on that achievement?
Carlos: Yes of course it was exciting for us but more exciting was the fact that we were the band to open the show for Tito Puente and Poncho Sanchez. Mongo Santamaria was scheduled to perform but did not due to illness. Opening the show was most the most important thing for us. Even if it wasnt in Carnegie Hall, it doesnt matter. Just opening the show and standing on the same stage with those two great headliners and playing Latin Jazz music was great for us.
Angel: Describe to us your orchestra.
Carlos: My orchestra has 18 musicians. They are all top musicians in Japan. They keep themselves very busy doing studio recordings, travel with famous artists, and jazz gigs. When I started this band, I just wanted to have fun with those guys and play some interesting tunes. So I called them up and they agreed to meet and get together. The band has been together now for three years.
Angel: Tell us about the different sections of your band and the instruments.
Carlos: We have four Saxophones (Baritone, Tenor, and two Alto Sax's) three Trombones, four Trumpets, four Percussionists; Trap drums, Bass, and Piano, also the Bata' (instrument from Cuba). I play the Bongos and percussion. Basically I play the Conga and Bongo in this kind of music.
Angel: At Carnegie during your presentation, you clearly showed that you have a passion for the music. Could you share with our readers where some of your ideas for music come from? Is it, that you are walking down the street one day and all of a sudden you have an idea?
Carlos: Before going into the recording session, I spend a lot of time listening to music selections to pick up some tunes to play with the band. My concept is to be able to open the door to the more audiences and get into all types of music. In Japan, Latin music has a small percentage of followers. So Im looking to open the doors more to other audiences. Interestingly, there are many musicians playing Latin jazz in Japan. So thats good. But its still in its infancy. Fortunately for me, Ive just released a third CD, in Japan, with this band (its not available in the US yet). Its selling really well.
Angel: Carlos, Salsa was a major part of music for you during your time with Orchesta De La Luz and now your focus is Latin jazz. How do you see the two blending together towards the future?
Carlos: Well, its hard to explain my situation. I can listen to all kinds of music with the same interest. Im not Latin so the sense of expressing that feeling is different for me. However, before La Luz I had a Latin jazz band. The core of my music is Latin because I spent a lot of time with the Latin jazz band and with Orchesta De La Luz. I continued with some Latin jazz gigs at the same time that I was playing with La Luz.
Angel: What attracted you to the Big Band Sound and what is it about Latin jazz that captures your soul?
Carlos: Whenever big bands are mentioned, I always think about the past when I was a kid and was watching American TV programs. The program's music had big band sounds to them. I became attracted to that sound. Its my passion now. But I also love Salsa music. So I combine them now. I also try to blend pop in the music as well.
Angel: Are there any influences from other musicians or artists?
Carlos: I have a lot of people who have influenced me positively like Tito Puente. My idol is Carlos "Patato" Valdez. There are so many other musicians. It was Tito Puente who gave me a chance to play this music because he came to Japan in 1978 or 79 with his Latin Jazz Ensemble and gave us lessons on how to play Latin music. I remember going to see the show and they did a great job. It was exciting for me. I used to play Samba and Bosa Nova types of music. After I saw Titos show, well, it changed my mind.
Angel: The public recognizes you from your work with La Luz. Now that they see you with your own band playing Latin jazz, what kind of response do you receive from those who didnt know that you were playing Latin jazz?
Carlos: Some people didnt know that Orchesta De La Luz broke up. They were surprised about it. Officially, La Luz broke up in 1997 but I left the band towards the end of 1995. Then I formed my current band. So the reaction has been very positive to us playing Latin jazz. I have received congratulations from the people and I was very happy to see that reaction from the audience. By the way, some guys from La Luz are now playing in my new band as well. They were also playing Latin jazz at the same time they were playing with La Luz. They have a lot of knowledge about jazz and about improvisation.
Angel: Are you going to be touring now? Where will you be going?
Carlos: For now, its difficult to get all the members together. They are very busy with gigs. They are always working all over. I think for the rest of this year well stay in Japan. But next year, theres the chance to come back again to New York. Im trying to do the arranging but sometimes its difficult because we have 18 members so thats a lot of people.
Angel: For those of us first reading about you Carlos, tell the readers briefly about your thoughts about being with Orchesta De La Luz.
Carlos: Wow! That was a great experience for me. I never experienced anything like that. We had a great time. Everyone got along well. There were so many things I learned. The traveling was one of the most rewarding aspects.
Angel: In closing, are there any artists that you would like to work with that you havent yet?
Carlos: Yes, there are so many people like Gloria Estefan, Harry Connick, Jr, and Celia Cruz.
Thank you Carlos Kanno for the wonderful opportunity to share with us your thoughts and aspirations. Im sure the readers of Salsamundo.com and all the Netizens out there very much enjoyed he music you, along with Orchesta De La Luz, played for the many fans around the globe. Continued success to Carlos Kanno, and all the former members of Orchesta De La Luz.
Personal Note: When not busy performing, Carlos Kanno enjoys fly-fishing and golfing. He also is heavily involved in producing artists in Japan. He has two children, 14 and 10 yearsof age. One enjoys singing and playing the piano.
Members of the Nettai Tropical Jazz Band:
Shiro Sasaki, Trumpet
Masanor Suzuki, Trumpet
Kenji Matsushima, Trumpet
Sho Okumura, Trumpet
Hideaki Nakaji, Trombone
Dairo Miyamoto, Bass Saxophone Taisei Aoki, Trombone
Kan Nishida, Bass Trombone
Kazuhiko Kondo, Alto Saxophone
Masahiro Fujioka, Alto Saxophone
Manteru Nonoda, Tenor Saxophone
Salt Shionoya, Piano
Getao Takahashi, Bass
Akira Jinbo, Drums
Carlos Kanno, Percussion
Michiaki Tanaka, Percussion
Cosmos Kapitza, Percussion
Gen Ogimi, Percussion
To contact Carlos Kanno, send emails to: Nycmambo@aol.com