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Star-studded Jazz concert in Osaka Castle Park

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Star-studded Jazz concert in Osaka Castle Park

On Wednesday April 30, the Ninomaru Gardens in Osaka Castle Park were transformed into an outdoor jazz festival, with some 7,000 jazz fans being treated to an eclectic mix of jazz during a mesmerizing 2 hour evening set to celebrate International Jazz Day.

OSAKA, JAPAN - APRIL 30:  Herbie Hancock (L) and Wayne Shorter perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan.  (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

OSAKA, JAPAN – APRIL 30: Herbie Hancock (L) and Wayne Shorter perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

The All Star Concert is the centerpiece of UNESCO’s annual International Jazz Day, an event now in its third year, celebrated around the world to promote a message of goodwill through jazz performances and community outreach. Following in the footsteps of New York (2012) and Istanbul (2013), Osaka was selected as the proud host this year, with an illuminated Osaka Castle provided the stunning backdrop to the outdoor jazz concert. The opening number – an amazing collaboration between the thundering beats of traditional Japanese taiko drums and a delicate jazz ditty performed, incredibly, on conch shells by Steve Turre – was certainly unexpected, yet set the scene for an evening of jazz exploration.

There was certainly a lot of goodwill among the audience, as some of the World’s greatest living jazz musicians performed everything from jazz standards, contemporary classics, African fusion and even some blues thrown in for good measure. Highlights included a haunting duet by Herbie Hancock (piano) and Wayne Shorter (sax) performing Memory of Enchantment, and an up-tempo blues guitar riff-fest with guitarists Joe Louis Walker, Chris Thomas King and John Scofield romping through the Robert Johnson classic Ramblin’ On My Mind. Lew Tabackin stood out for his masterful flute solo during Autumn Sea, performed together with its composer, Japanese jazz pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and Mali vocalist Oumou Sangare brought the crowd to its feet with the infectious grooves of her African roots number Yala.

OSAKA, JAPAN - APRIL 30: (L-R) Roy Hargrove, Marcus Miller, Kenny Garett and John Scofield perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

OSAKA, JAPAN – APRIL 30: (L-R) Roy Hargrove, Marcus Miller, Kenny Garett and John Scofield perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

The event is spearheaded by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, who bowled over the crowd with not only his jazz performances but also his captivating speech about the significance of jazz as a medium that transcends cultural and political boundaries. He likened the event’s aims with the theme of John Lennon’s peace anthem – Imagine. Cue an artful jazz arrangement of Lennon’s song for the grande finale, with everyone jamming away together on stage. Lalah Hathaway provided the soulful lead vocals, together with South African guitarist Jonathan Butler and some slap-tastic funk bass from Marcus Miller with a little bit of everything else thrown in.

Osaka can slap itself on the back for pulling off a wonderful event that provided everyone lucky enough to get tickets, with an unforgettable experience. Perhaps for future editions the organisers might want to consider a free concert format (perhaps with tickets assigned by lottery), but in the meantime, for anyone that was unable to make the event in person, a video of the concert can be found on the official website: http://jazzday.com.

OSAKA, JAPAN - APRIL 30: James Genus (L) and Courtney Pine perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

OSAKA, JAPAN – APRIL 30: James Genus (L) and Courtney Pine perform on stage at the 2014 International Jazz Day Global Concert on April 30, 2014 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Keith Tsuji/Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz)

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