Consisting of trumpeter Benny Benack, alto saxophonist Tim Green, pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Ulysses Owens, New Century Jazz Quintet are lighting up the jazz scene with original compositions and jazz roots with five of the top young musicians at the moment from America and Japan. KS caught up with trumpeter Benny Benack to find out more about the upcoming Japan dates.
Tell us a little about the band and how it came together.
NCJQ is unique in that it has two co-leaders: Ulysses & Takeshi. They performed together in Japan as a duo, and after the chemistry of that concert, on the bullet train they composed the idea for the NCJQ. They wanted to create a hybrid American/Japanese band that honored the roots and tradition of great jazz quintets like Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove etc. If we sound 1/10th as swinging as them, then we’ve accomplished our goal! We also feature our original compositions, so the band stays current and fresh with a new generation as well – it is the best of both worlds!
What can the audience expect from the set list on the night?
NCJQ prides itself on covering the entire history of the jazz quintet. We always find new ways to arrange classic standards, as well as exciting new original songs, all ranging from classic bebop to the avant-garde and beyond. We like the flexibility of this band to play all genres of jazz – wherever the music takes us. We hope with our shows, the audience is ready to go on this journey with us!
Being the grandson of jazz musician Benedict E Benack, and having a father who also played trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet, do you find this heritage an inspiration to your own playing and musical career?
I am very lucky to come from three generations of jazz musicians in my family. I just visited home recently and discovered cassette tapes of my grandfather, who played trumpet like Harry James and Louis Armstrong! My father plays saxophone and clarinet, and I grew up playing quintet gigs with him, so I like to imagine he prepared me for the NCJQ when I was just a young boy! In modern times, a life of a musician involves some personal sacrifice, so I am fortunate my parents supported me as musicians themselves, and knew that my destiny was to play jazz for USA, Japan, and the whole world!
Five of the best rising stars of jazz from New York and Japan • Mister Kelly’s, Osaka • Aug 21–22 • Jazz • 7pm & 8:30pm Aug 21; 7:30pm & 9pm Aug 22 • ¥6,500/¥6,800 • Tel: 06-6342-5821