Sep 25, 2012
Rio Sakairi is a major figure in the New York City jazz scene today. As the Director of Programming at The Jazz Gallery, she has created an internationally recognized breeding ground for blossoming musical talent, helping to launch the careers of dozens of today’s finest young players. When a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, spawning devastating tsunamis and a subsequent nuclear crisis, Ms. Sakairi, who was born and raised in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki (just two hundred miles from the severely ravaged Sendai area) was inspired immediately into action.
She called upon an esteemed roster of friends and colleagues, and they came together to create a gift to those who suffered such incredible loss. HOME - Gift of Music is an eight-song note of support from some of today's most innovative musicians in jazz and beyond, including Gretchen Parlato, Doug Wamble, Becca Stevens, Alan Hampton, John Ellis and Claudia Acuña. The artists donated their time and talents, penning personal songs specifically for this project. All proceeds from HOME - Gift of Music will go to Habitat for Humanity Japan, where volunteers are working tirelessly to rebuild homes for those affected. Studio time, engineering, artwork, graphic design, distribution, marketing and PR services were also generously donated.
I spoke with Rio about the project, and she expressed her gratitude to all. The word “family” is used most often by her to describe this group of musicians, who have stepped forward with assistance. The Jazz Gallery is undergoing dramatic changes, as it lost its lease due to rezoning and will move to a new location (as yet undetermined) in December. She plans a series of retrospective concerts to honor the space and its history, most notably a benefit concert on Wednesday October 24 at Rockwood Hall, featuring Steve Coleman, Larry Grenadier, Miguel Zenon, Johnathan Blake, and other artists who she promised would top all of these notables in star power.
Click here to listen to out conversation on Podcast 303, featuring musical selections from the CD including:
John Ellis – “Home” from HOME - Gift of Music. Ellis is a long-time associate of Rio’s, commissioned three times for The Jazz Gallery's notable commissioning program. When called upon to write the title track for the album, he did not hesitate, even when she asked him to make his recorded singing debut.
Doug Wamble – “Fear Not the Fall” from HOME - Gift of Music. A sparse, almost hymn-like song, Rio told me it was recorded in one take, just Wamble and his guitar.
Sachal Vasandani - "Doves" from HOME - Gift of Music. The album ends with a large group effort, featuring pianist Taylor Eigsti, , guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Johnathan Blake. They ably back Vasandani and guest singers Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens in a song that begs for interpretation