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A Little Musical Fusion For the Weekend

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 30, 2007 9:00PM

2007_11_tatsu.jpgTatsu Aoki might be best known for his steady bass playing alongside Fred Anderson and Yoko Noge's Jazz Me Blues. He's also an educator (he teaches film at the Art Institute), founder and artistic director of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival, record label head and producer, and a tireless musician exploring the limits of his instrument and himself. Aoki's endeavors earned him designation as a "Chicagoan of the Year" by the Tribune in 2001.

One of Aoki's most fully realized musical concepts is his long-running Miyumi Project. The band, which can range in size from a quintet to a fourteen-piece big band, provides Aoki with the tools to mine whatever musical impulse grabs him. The Miyumi Project is, at its surface, an amalgam of jazz with traditional Japanese rhythms. Using mainly taiko and shime drums, whose simpler rhythmic patterns Aoki says provides his compositions with a solid foundation similar to rock drumming, he's able to fill the space between the beat with soaring melodies from saxophonist Mwata Bowden. Bowden, along with taiko and shime player Hide Yoshihashi, have been the two constants in Miyumi Project in both its quintet and orchestra lineups. Other members have included the late AACM-affiliated trumpeter Ameen Muhammad, Noge, and drummer/actress/gal-about-town Mia Park.

The smaller Miyumi Project lineup will take the stage at the Velvet Lounge tomorrow night at 9:30 p.m., and it should be a blast to see what Aoki and company come up with. Cover is $15.