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Chris 'Minh' Doky, Makoto Ozone and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts

To promote his new CD ‘Cinematique,’ bassist-composer Chris Minh Doky has been recently touring in Europe with a powerful trio featuring himself on double bass, Makoto Ozone on piano and Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts on drums.

After some gigs in London, the trio travelled to Brussels on January 13th for a sold out concert at the ‘Music Village,’ a jazz club that started a little more than two years ago in the center of the European capital, two minutes walking from the town hall in a two century-old warehouse.

‘Cinematique’ features the young, talented bass player in three different line ups, each one taking him only two hours to record the tracks, all of which are ‘first takes only.’

Chris Minh Doky: I wanted to create three different atmospheres. With Tain and Joey [Calderazzo], I obtained a very New York-oriented kind of hard bop sound. With Bill Stewart and Larry Goldings, the sound is smoother and more transparent. The combination with Makoto and Clarence Penn creates some kind of tension.

JazzReview: The tour features a hybrid trio.

Chris Minh Doky: Exactly. Makoto and Tain never played together before.

JazzReview: Goldfinger features special guest Toots Thielemans on harmonica.

Chris Minh Doky: I wrote this arrangement especially for him. We’ve been playing together several times for years already now. When I decided to record ‘Goldfinger,’ I immediately thought of Toots. He accepted right away! As the son of a jazz musician, Makoto Ozone grew up in jazz. When he was three years old, he already imitated his father on the piano. As a fan of Jimmy Smith, he started playing the Hammond B3, but some years later, listening to the records of Oscar Peterson, he finally went back to the piano.

At the age of thirteen, Makoto attended a live concert of Oscar Peterson. It made him realize that he should take some piano lessons. In order to be able to practice all those tunes, he had to learn to read music, which he finally did.

Makoto Ozone: The best thing to happen is when people come to see me after the concert to tell me how much energy they got from our music. This is much more important to me than any review I get to read in any magazine. That’s why just before playing, I always tell my musicians that we really have to be the source of as much positive energy as possible. It’s the only way to make sure that this energy will reach the audience and eventually, come back to us generating new energy in order to express to them what we really feel in songs like ‘Terra di Amor’ [the land of love] and ‘Bienvenidos al Mundo’ [welcome to the world where everybody should be free and happy].

The reason why I use different languages to name my tunes is to show the listeners how to free their minds. Music is a universal language that can be understood by musicians worldwide. Playing music with someone you’ve never met before, who lives five thousand miles away from you, gives a tremendous feeling of freedom. Just imagine if the same could happen with words!

JazzReview: What is more exciting for you, writing original songs of your own or playing standards?

Makoto Ozone: I’ve got nothing against playing standards. You need to be able to play them in order to create new material. The challenge in writing new material is to make it sound as powerful as a standard, which has nothing to do with making it sound difficult, complicated or impressive. Believe me, writing a simple tune and making it sound strong is much more difficult than composing a complicated song, just like it is more difficult to tell a good story in one single minute than wasting half an hour to finally tell nothing at all!

Makoto Ozone’s new album ‘Treasure,’ which is due to be released very soon, will feature him in duet with some of the greatest musicians such as Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Jon Hendricks and Michael Brecker.

Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts composed most of the music on his newest CD ‘Bar Talk’ on the road. He already introduced some of that material while playing in the bands of Branford Marsalis and Michael Brecker.

Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts: The first music I heard in my life, as far as I can remember, came from James Brown, Aretha Franklin and The Jackson Five. In primary school during the general music class when asked to choose an instrument, I wanted to pick up the trumpet. But the teacher told me my teeth were incorrect to play it, which was a lie. The truth was that they had run out of trumpets, so I chose the snare drum. I was about nine years-old then. Most of my performance during high school and early college was classically oriented, since I wanted to become a symphonic musician at that time. A few years later, I started focusing on the drumset and moving towards a career as a studio musician playing a variety of styles.

When I attended the Pittsburg Conservatory, I was pretty much a timpanist who, at night, played fusion, blues, bluegrass, whatever. From when I was eighteen, my brother always gave me fusion jazz records for my birthday. It made me discover the albums of Billy Cobham (Spectrum, Crosswinds ), Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. These records finally made me back track to the history of jazz, especially when I started to realize that guys like Herbie, Zawinul or Chick had played with Miles, and Miles had played with Bird.

JazzReview: Touring also means meeting people. Jeff had never expected that in Brussels he would meet his old school friend Leon Lhoest, a Dutch piano player who is a professor at the Brussels’ Conservatory.

Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts: We attended the Berklee college of Boston together for a couple of years in the late seventies early eighties. Amazingly, during that same period, which according to what several people told me afterwards, had never been like that before and would never become the same again, I met several musicians over there who would become great names in jazz, such as Branford Marsalis, Donald Harrison, Wallace Roney, Greg Osby, Billy Kilson, Gene Jackson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kevin Eubanks, Steve Vai the list goes on and on. I often played in the sextet Leon Lhoest had put together to rehearse with. It was my first occasion to really play in a band.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chris Minh Doky
  • Subtitle: Live At The ‘Music Village’ In Brussels
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