JAZZ IN JAPAN
Shinjuku Pit Inn
November 17, 2015
西山 瞳Hitomi Nishiyama
織原 良次Ryoji Orihara–fretless bass
橋本 学Manabu Hashimoto–drums
Nishiyama studied classical music when she was young, as do many jazz converts, but she secretly loved heavy metal music. After a jazz gig a few years back, she confessed her youthful passion to bassist Ryoji Orihara, who admitted the same. They got together to jam and the music flowed easily.
They found that though they had both entered the jazz world, they had a lot to say about the alternate music of their youth. A bond was formed, and from it, a new trio and CD were born: “New Heritage of Real Heavy Metal.”
The trio’s CD release party was primed for fun and a dose of healthy confusion. Half the audience was dressed in concert T-shirts, leather boots and metal-studded clothes. The other half was dressed in sleek, subdued black—so, perhaps the two styles were not all that different. No matter which direction they came from, the audience was willing to bridge the gap between heavy metal and jazz.
The audience’s hardcore metal fans might have wanted to rock, and the jazz fans might have wanted to swing, but these songs found their own rhythm. The songs flowed, with heavy insistence, but far from a pounding 4/4 beat. From time to time, the trio locked into rocking grooves, but then, so does “straight” jazz.
What was most intriguing was the way Nishiyama and band found the ostinato motifs to build up energy. Heavy metal does that with amped-up guitars, but Nishiyama’s piano, together with Orihara’s nimble bass and Hashimoto’s complex drumming, did that with strong playing. Energy was never lost, but always found.
Did they play everyone’s favorite songs? Yes, but you’d hardly recognize them. Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” were stripped down and delivered with the melody, chords and style all reworked and rejuvenated. Helloween’s “All Over the Nation,” a heavy metal gothic classic became a transitional text, with jazz chords and rhythms added, without losing the immediacy of heavy metal. Ultimately, it was more jazz than metal, but different from most jazz that takes on rock or pop.
Most of the jazz standards of the 20th century started out as pop songs. So, why not heavy metal? It’s one of the most popular musical forms to emerge in the late 20th century, but entirely ignored by jazz. Though the blend of jazz’s musical complexity and the direct, raw energy of metal was not always an easy one, the trio made every song intriguingly new. Most tunes were taken from their recently released CD, under the band name NHORHM, “New Heritage of Real Heavy Metal.”
The trio was a reminder that jazz still has a lot of popular songs waiting to be reworked. The trio here goes back to that aspect of jazz with verve, enthusiasm and a youthful sense of fun. Peel off heavy metal’s reverb, overdrive, and indeed the guitars altogether, and underneath, is pure music, however you create it and enjoy it.