Noted by The New York Times as a “virtuosic, deeply expressive shakuhachi player and composer,” Kojiro Umezaki (梅崎康二郎) performs regularly with the Grammy Award winning Silk Road Ensemble with whom he appears on multiple recordings including Sing Me Home, A Playlist Without Borders, Off the Map, and the Grammy-nominated 2015 documentary film, The Music of Strangers, directed by Morgan Neville. (Cycles), an album of original work, was released recently by In a Circle Records. Other recordings as performance, composer, and/or producer include Brooklyn Rider’s Dominant Curve, Yo-Yo Ma’s Appassionato, Beat in Fractions’ Beat Infraction, The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan (Smithsonian Folkways), and Huun Huur Tu’s Ancestors Call.
Born to a Japanese father and Danish mother, Umezaki grew up in Tokyo and is a performer of the shakuhachi, a composer, and a technologist with interests in integrating global musical practices with electronics. He is member of the senate faculty at the University of California, Irvine where he works with doctoral students in the Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology program.
Recent and forthcoming highlights:
- In February, the Silk Road Ensemble received the Grammy award in the Best World Music Album category for Sing Me Home. KU is credited as associate producer, co-composer, and performer.
- The documentary film by Morgan Neville and Tremolo Productions, The Music of Strangers, also received a Grammy nomination in the Best Music Film category. See KU in the trailer here.
- On Saturday, September 17, the new documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, The Vietnam War, premieres on PBS. The Silk Road Ensemble provided much of the music, with one track arranged by KU.
- The Silk Road Ensemble TED Conference video of “St. James Infirmary Blues” arranged by Michael Ward-Bergman and featuring Rhiannon Giddens went live in November. 800K+ views and counting! KU plays the Monty Levenson shakulute/furuhachi.
- Plans to complete and premiere three commissions this coming season!
- For a fellow Silk Road Ensemble member and dear friend, Mark Suter, a piece for kalimba, marimba, and electronics currently titled “kamaLRimba,” premiering sometime in 2018 (venue in Singapore, date tba).
- For a dear friend, Maggie Parkins, a piece for cello and electronics currently titled “Freeway [At Las]t,” premiering sometime in late 2017 or 2018 (venue in Southern California, date tba).
- For the Asia-America New Music Institute (AANMI) and Hub New Music (thank you Chad Cannon!) a piece for shakuhachi and chamber ensemble currently untitled, premiering early November at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA (exact dates/times tba).
- The orchestral arrangement for KU’s “(Cycles) America” featuring double concert chimes is programmed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (Eric Jacobsen, Music Director) for next February. More information is here.
- As part of last November’s Silk Road Ensemble tour in Asia, KU’s “(Cycles) America” was performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (Lan Shui, Music Director). Also with the SSO, along with Wu Man, KU was a featured soloist for Toru Takemitsu’s iconic work “November Steps.”
- Along with Masayo Ishigure, KU is a featured soloist for Yugo Kanno’s concerto for koto and shakuhachi, “Revive,” with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (Carolyn Kuan, Music Director) in October. More information is here.
- Doris Duke Artist, Alpert Award recipient, and Perennial Downbeat Magazine “Top Flutist of the Year” Nicole Mitchell released Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds in May. KU joins the project on shakuhachi. The official launch concert for the album is on Saturday, October 14 in Chicago! A January 15, 2018 performance in NYC is tbc!
- Back in November, KU also joined the latest recording project led by Kei Akagi (piano)–perhaps best known for his work as a member of the Miles Davis band in the late 1980’s–alongside Darek Oles (bass) and Tamaya Honda (drums). Scheduled for release in late 2017, concerts supporting the album are in the works for February 2018 in Southern California and April 2018 (tbc) in Europe!
- The premiere of Layla and Majun–a collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Alim and Fargana Qasimov–was at Cal Performances in Berkeley in September. KU will be part of upcoming performances at Lincoln Center (October) and The Kennedy Center (March).
- A Silk Road Ensemble US tour is in the works for April 2018. Locations, dates, times tba!
For all upcoming events/performances, click here. Hoping to see you soon!