East-West Jazz Alliance brings Japanese music to Bellevue College

The first concert of the school year, the East West Jazz Alliance, began fall quarter with an amazing display of the talents of both the Bellevue College Big Band and the various guest players that featured in the event. Over the course of the one and a half hour performance, the sweeping melodies of trombone, saxophone, and piano filled the rainy fall night. The incredible concert occurred on Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for BC students and $15 for others.

The East West Jazz Alliance, with a focus on Japanese music and artists, began with a lively rendition of Have a Havana. As the night wore on, the band played a myriad of other songs, such as “The Blues Story”, “Purple Heart”, “The Sukiyaki Song”, and “Dear Pop Jay.” Many prominent Japanese musicians, such as Yasuhiro Kohama, Atsushi Ikeda, Yuki Hirate, Phil Sparks, and Daisuke Kurata played alongside the Big Band. Vocalist Maya Hatch, an acclaimed Japanese musician who has written over 20 songs, sang along to “The Sukiyaki Song.” Jay Thomas, a famed jazz artist, also featured in the East West Jazz Alliance. “When you introduce yourself, being from Seattle, everyone says: ‘Do you know Jay Thomas?’” conductor Jim Sisko laughs, before continuing, “If you wouldn’t mind putting your hands together for Mr. Jay Thomas—”

After several songs with the Big Band and a brief intermission, the soloists played several ensembles together. They played through several songs, including “Unladylike” and a Japanese song that roughly translates to “Prayer.”

“We are so happy to be here,” Jay Thomas gushed between songs, “I’m playing with these guys and I love them so much.”

In fact, both the audience and the players seemed to be enjoying themselves. The music was full of energy and personality; the audience clapped, cheered, and laughed along with the performers. The building, the audience, and the band itself were all transformed by the music.

“Music is funny,” Sisko said. “That’s a really hard trumpet solo, and he’s never nailed it once in rehearsal. And he totally crushed it today.”

Finally, as the spectacular closing to the East West Jazz Alliance, both the Big Band and the guest artists performed Maya Hatch’s “Together.” She explains, “I wrote it because when I moved to Japan, I felt… kind of a disconnect with other humans. I feel that we should be seeing each other as part of the same family.” As if to demonstrate, as the final conclusion to both the song and the concert, the singer invited both the audience and the rest of the band to sing parts of the song along with her.

After the show ended, members of the East West Jazz Alliance had tables set up, giving the audience opportunities to buy their CDs or meet them in person.

All around, the East West Jazz Alliance was an amazing taste of the world of jazz-musicians, conductors, and songs—in both Japan and Seattle.

“That’s the beauty of this music, jazz,” Sisko said, “it’s a hundred years old and it sounds like it could have been written yesterday.”