Jazz - Musician/Composer/Producer

About Chika Asamoto

Chika Asamoto’s life, like her music, is a range of experiences; and what she has learned from them, absorbed and interpreted from those expectations, make her completely unique. As a child growing up in Tokyo, her parents bought her a piano, she took lessons, she had the required good music education in her schools – it was to be a typical introduction to music in Japan. But as life would lead her as an exchange student to Los Angeles and working as a waitress in a music club, she had a chance meeting with jazz saxophonist Art Pepper. She was very taken by his playing, had never heard improvisational music, and it struck deep with her. The next day she was on the hunt for a secondhand soprano saxophone and soon she found her destiny and ground-breaking career with it, and now Asamoto is one of most prolific female musicians, producers and composers of jazz worldwide.


Although she didn’t take up an instrument to truly make it her voice until age twenty, she was early on influenced and intrigued by the Western music of cinema and composers and pop and jazz icons such as Stevie Wonder, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. And this music certainly had an influence, because within only one year of taking saxophone lessons, Chika was accepted into Berklee College of Music in Boston and went on to graduate after studying the jazz masters and improvisation. It was also in Boston that she saw the then retired Miles Davis in concert whose style would continue to inspire her as a musician who crossed the boundaries of what is considered art and popular music.


When she returned to Japan, she signed her first major recording contract with Nippon Columbia Japan and joined the fusion group Crystal Moon. She went solo and recorded eight albums on her own label and others, and performed with industry greats such as David Matthews and Mark Egan, MC Guru (Jazz Matazz), Donald Bird (T.P.) Lonnie Liston Smith and Diana Krall and at prestigious events such as the Jakarta International Jazz Festival, F1 Week, Singapore and the Jak Festival.


As Asamoto established her own music, she was inspired by the work of Jon Hassell, Jan Garbarek, Wayne Shorter, Tineke Postma and David Leibman. The results produced a sound that blended jazz improvisation, ambient and influences that combined the concepts of Eastern and Western contemporary music.


In 1998, she formed the progressive experimental group Ambient 7 and its unique Japanese techno electronic style was showcased in films, television, fashion events (Koushin Sato, TAG Heuer) and concerts including Rainbow 2000 (Japan); Foreverpeace (Korea); and international events such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Cola Launch (Japan).


Asamoto then started to further her career to include hosting music and radio talk shows on TV Tokyo, FM Osaka and commercials such as Meiji Chocolate, Hitachi Electric, Nivea Visage and P&G. Her sponsorships have included Piper-Heidsieck, the official champagne of Cannes Film Festival.


But even with her unique position as a premier female jazz soprano saxophonist, it has been her contributions as a producer and arranger of some of Asia’s most popular artists that again set her apart. Her credits include Reza (Indonesia), JAYA (Philippines), Kim Johan (Korea), ASH (Korea), Shunza (Taiwan) and Ning (Malaysia).


Her recent release is Catalpa and features keyboardist and re-mixer Gus Till. “The power of sound to evoke has always been immense and has always been with us,” she notes. “Japanese Shamanism, with its roots in the ancient past, has always placed special import on the ritual use of music- the beating of drums, the twanging of a bow make of catalpa wood and ritual chanting – a particular array of sounds, song and dance with the power to evoke curiosity in the spirit world to cause spirits to breach the impenetrable barrier separating their world from ours. Catalpa, with its ability to strike and be struck, to be strummed as a bow and for its delicate horn shaped flowers seemed a fitting symbol for our project.”


And it was that ability to be struck by jazz music in a club in Los Angeles, that a twenty year old Chika Asamoto found a part of herself; and now years later, it finds her a fitting symbol to strike with her music worldwide.


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Chika Asamoto