Five of the best rising star musicians from New York City & Japan arrive in the Rubber City with their red-hot band inspired by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers for a very special masterclass (6PM, FREE) and live concert event (8PM)! Featuring Ulysses Owens, Jr., Takeshi Ohbayashi, Benny Benack III, Tim Green, Yasushi Nakamura.
Pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. first shared the stage in 2012. They immediately realized their styles drew deeply from the same jazz influence, the legendary Mulgrew Miller pianist for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The musical bond they developed on the bandstand that night, caused them to search for an overlap in their schedules for future collaboration.
The following year they met in Japan and performed a duo concert in Hiroshima. After that night’s performance, Owens and Ohbayashi decided to lead an all-acoustic quintet with the same lineup as the Jazz Messengers: trumpet, sax, piano, bass, and drums, and named the group New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ). “The Messengers established a foundation that made everything that is contemporary possible,” Owens reflects.
NCJQ is a collaboration made to endure and make a lasting impression on its audience. Owens and Ohbayashi are co-leaders, yet each of the band members contributes equally as writers and arrangers. They lead with the belief that the music is strongest when the range of talents among the group is fulfilled. Ohbayashi feels Owens possesses “a very palpable excitement that he conveys through his speed, rhythm, and the strength in his playing. It’s a quality that the musicians and the audience can feel. He is powerful, yet he doesn’t use it for himself. He plays for other people.” Owens finds similar inspiration in Ohbayashi’s approach and sound, which he describes as driving, swinging, and plush. “Takeshi is a rarity among pianists: he is a generous accompanist, and an artist who mines the tradition to be as inventive and musical as possible.”
Bassist Yasushi Nakamura elevates the rhythm section with vivid intensity, whether he is swinging hard or using the bow to evoke an intimate mood. Alto player Tim Green brings supple warmth that conjures up the sounds of Kenny Garrett, Charlie Parker, and Wayne Shorter. Trumpeter Benny Benack III (who, alongside Owens, Wynton Marsalis has named on his list of innovators in the new generation of jazz) asserts a bright tone and witty exuberance throughout, providing a perfect complement to Green’s lyricism.
NCJQ has partnered with Tomoki Sassa of Spice of Life Records to present their experience to the Japanese audience. As each member of the quintet spans the globe pursuing his various engagements, Sassa is committed to cultivating a foothold for the group in Japan.
New Century Jazz Quintet released their debut album “Time is Now” in Japan on July 2014 with a Japanese tour. The album, features adventurous and stylish playing, that bears the musical familiarity of old friends. The effect is a club-like intimacy that appeals to the new generation as well as to long-time jazz connoisseurs. With one foot in the past and one in the future, as Dizzy Gillespie once said, their influences include greats Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Wayne Shorter, and the Classic Blue Note Albums from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Though the group is a start up, Ohbayashi states their mission is established. “We want to write beautiful melodies, groove as much as we can, and play the blues as deeply as we can.” Between the two artistic centers of New York City and Tokyo, NCJQ is creating a space of its own.
In 2015 the quintet went on a U.S. tour and then released their sophomore album “In Case You Missed Us” to a sold out Japanese tour. NCJQ kicked off 2016 with a U.S. record release performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and will be going on a U.S. tour in spring 2016.