Japan Jazz: an espresso with Ryo Hatakeyama

March 28, 2019

Japan Jazz

We have interviewed Ryo Hatakeyama on the release of his new album Mosaic Structure


How do you work on compositions and arrangements?
Well, about composing, for most of the part, the story of the tune and the melody, chord changes kind of come together. As the story goes, the melody and the shape of the chords float into my mind and I sit in front of the piano to write it out.  Or sometimes I sit in front of the piano and just try to pull something out of myself and kind of struggle to work it out.
About the arrangements, I try it out in live and hear it back and find out what  would work better as a tune and the band. If it doesn't sound good as a band, then it’s kind of meaningless for me playing it.
But right now, I don't think there were any arrangements that didn't work bad. They always make the music sound great. More than what I imagine.
When did you meet jazz?
I think it was when I was 18, 19 years old. At that time, I was attending a music school in Kobe and there was one ensemble class I was in and we played all kinds of music.  Like pop, rock, R&B, funk, fusion and jazz. So it wasn’t kind of a jazz ensemble and I wasn't into jazz at that point. Later in my 2nd school year, I started to play in jam sessions at school and some club gigs and I think those led me to the jazz world. Started to love the beauty of the music. Like there's no real right answer to it. It all depends on how you feel or how you react to each other. Or with who you play with. Nothing happens the same and that was something I really loved.
When did you decide to become a jazz musician?
Well, I don't really remember or I don't think that I thought to be a jazz musician. It was kind of a natural thing. After graduating at the school in Kobe, I attended Berklee College of Music and met a lot of great musicians. Studying and playing with them just made me think more and more about the music so it was kind of a natural thing to become a jazz musician.
What is jazz today in your opinion?
This one’s a kind of hard question.  As you see the history of jazz, jazz changes from era to era. Musicians put a new element into jazz.
Like the music they heard in their childhood or the music that they hear now. That gives a new element to the jazz and someone might add some taste to it and it changes and changes. There’s a time when the music gets too complicated.  Like playing in different odd meters all the way or the melody might not get some statement and the listeners or even the musicians won't understand what’s going on. And I think that that might be going too far but at the same time, I think that that might be a step leading to another world.
How do you choose the musicians to work with?
There’re two things that I think.  The musicians that got the flavour of what I want and the musicians that sound good playing together. There's a lot of great musicians but, for example, if I choose them by not thinking anything, then the way they play the music might not fit each other and the music wouldn't sound good with that. The thing that I look for is the reflection of each other. Like when the way they play, think or feel about music is kind of similar, they react to each other more and more and bring the music to another level.
Who are the players that inspired you the most?
It’s kind of difficult to pick one up. Like the way I think or feel changes day by day, everything that I feel or hear inspires me.  But I think Jimmy Blanton, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy are the players that inspired me the most in my early years and even now too.  Never heard them in live which I really wanted to, but listening to their records really helped me out in playing jazz or music.
What are your next projects?
I kind of have a vision but it’s not kind of clear in my mind.  Maybe because there's still a lot of things I want try with this quartet which I really love.
What is the dream you would like to come true?
I really love my band members and they really sound awesome. It’s my pleasure playing with them and it’s an honor to record a CD with them. The band’s now been playing together for around 3,4 years and is really in a good shape and I wish to tour Europe and play at jazz festivals and clubs with them.
An espresso with... Ryo Hatakeyama copyright Jazzespresso 2019.
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