“Talk about things that make you go ‘Hmmm…’” Senri Oe
By Judy Shields
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 10/15/2019 – “In my mind jazz is always just like an old friend, so someday in my life I want to do jazz and I want to go to New York Jazz Conservatory to learn jazz,” Senri Oe told The Hollywood Times during a telephone interview.
Senri Oe YouTube video, click here
What beautiful and soulful music Senri Oe has created on his newest album HMMM. Each track will take you into a different sense of serenity and put your mind at ease and relax your entire body. I have been listening to it several times a week before bedtime so that I can be totally relaxed and get a great night sleep. Thank you Senri Oe for your beautiful jazz music. If you love jazz pick up Senri Oe’s latest album HMMM today or better yet, get a copy of it for that jazz lover in your life. This would be a great album to introduce jazz to any music lover. Click here to purchase HMMM on iTunes.
My boyfriend had this to say about Senri’s new album:
I can feel his pop influence and energy in some of the pieces…
#3 – Freshening Up: Perfect with morning coffee.
#4 – The Look: Great after you have had 6 cups of coffee…high energy.
#6 – Bikini: Jazz takes on Beach Blanket Bingo.
#7 – Pizza Party: Ideal background for a culinary soiree with friends.
#9 – A Fireplace: Romantically mellow.
So well said! My favorite was A Fireplace, truly romantic!
Senri has an amazing story — following a remarkable career as a former J-Pop superstar of the 80’s and 90’s, who grew up listening to the sounds of Billy Joel and The Carpenters, Senri did a complete turnabout on his career after a band member, and friend of his, suddenly passed away. At that point, he decided that life was too short, and wanted to focus on what was important in his life – his first love – jazz. He left Japan and his legion of pop fans to grab a piece of the American Dream, and headed to New York to study at the School of Jazz at The New School.
Since 2008, he has released five jazz albums: BOYS & GIRLS (2018), ANSWER JULY (2016), COLLECTIVE SCRIBBLE (2015), SPOOKY HOTEL (2013) and BOYS MATURE SLOW (2012). HMMM will mark Senri’s sixth.
The death of a loved one always has a profound impact. While many may simply shut down, jazz pianist Senri Oe was inspired to create music. When his father passed away last year, Senri was overcome with so many feelings and emotion, that he composed three solo piano tunes in 30-minutes. These songs are now featured on his first-ever trio jazz album titled HMMM, which is set to be released on September 20 on PND Records. The single from HMMM titled “Orange Desert,” was released digitally on September 4. The album features an incredible mix of songs and sounds sure to become a favorite with jazz lovers everywhere.
ORANGE DESERT HERE
HMMM includes six trio tracks and three solo piano tracks, with accompaniments by acclaimed musicians — bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Ari Hoenig. Senri’s song titles speak to the blend of introspection/reflection he brings to the collection. He intersperses his three brief, beautiful and graceful piano pieces – two interludes (“Freshening Up,” “When Life Was A Pizza Party”) and a postlude (the Christmas-themed “A Fireplace”) – amongst six lively gems that showcase Senri’s spirited, often lighthearted yet powerfully percussive trademark piano style, as he interacts with the dynamics-filled grooves created by Hoenig and Clohesy.
Since his 2012 jazz album debut, Senri has long thrived on building relationships with other artists and creating fresh musical collaborations, as he produced and arranged a collaborative recording by Janis Siegel of The Manhattan Transfer; recorded with renowned jazz vocal greats Sheila Jordan, Theo Bleckmann, Becca Stevens and Lauren Kinhan of the Grammy winning vocal ensemble New York Voices.
Senri has performed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, Blue Note NY, Blue Note Hawaii, Blue Note Tokyo, Vitello’s in Los Angeles, PianoForte in Chicago, and many more. Aside from Blue Note NY, he often performs at NYC venues such as Tomi Jazz, Zinc, the Jazz Gallery, Birdland, Soho House, Smalls and Dixon Place.
For more information visit: http://peaceneverdie.com/
Having established his own record label, PND Records and Music Publishing, Oe plays monthly at Tomi Jazz New York, is a regular pianist for Morning Musuko, a 17-piece big band specializing in Japanese popular music (J-pop), and has now released three albums. Following his state-side debut, Boys Mature Slow (PND Records, 2012) and sophomore release, Spooky Hotel (PND Records, 2013).
Interview with Senri Oe
THT: I wanted to get the correct pronunciation of your name
Senri Oe: Senri. I always say it’s just like Henry. Just add an “H” instead of “S!”
Senri Oe: “My dog Peace, my label company by itself, independent name PND, means Peace Never Die. Peace was a tiny dog that came with me from Japan, and she is 13 years old and still alive and kicking. I start talking on the phone and she feels jealous next to me and that is why she is barking.” He apologized for his dog barking and I said no worries at all.”
Peace is Senri’s buddy that he brought with him from Japan in 2008.
Senri Oe: “She is a tiny black and tan short hair Dachshund. Her name is Peace.”
THT: How did you come up with the titles for each of your songs on your new Album HMMM?
Senro Oe: “The titles are name tags…all of my tunes have their own stories and messages, and then I try to name them with imaginative phrase or words. For example, “Orange Desert” was the metaphor for ‘hope in my life.’ When I drove across the U.S. with my dog, I saw a huge sunrise colored in orange over the desert of Nevada I felt it could be hope for my life, and then I named it for this dynamic tune. “Fireplace” is the first tune in which the title came first, and I wrote it thinking about a nice, cozy and romantic living room with fireplace. I always love to create titles with ironic and humorous flavors.
THT: What were your experiences in making this new jazz album?
Senri Oe: A few days before the recording in New York, my dad passed away in Japan…it was the saddest time in my life, but even in this sadness, it made me create some powerful music. Matt and Ari didn’t ask anything about my loss, instead they supported me a lot. That was a sensitive and fragile moments for me, but we concluded six master pieces of Hmmm with dense concentration.
THT: Do you have a favorite song on this album and why is it your favorite?
Senri Oe: It’s hard to say, because all tunes are lovely for me, but I choose “Re:Vision” today. While composing “Re:Vision”, it was a time to get back to the roots of my music. Music is my life, and “Re:Vision” enlightens me to step forward to the next level of my music.
THT: Do you live in New York?
Senri Oe: “Actually Brooklyn. This is a very nice location in live, a lot of Jewish, Chinese people, Mexican and Columbian, so many diversity of people mixed together. I don’t have a US driver’s license, but it’s no problem, I just walk down the street because everything is walking distance from me. We are living in the city of New York with lots of transportation.”
THT: Explain the musical growth over the years from Japanese Pop to American Jazz.
Senri Oe: “That was a huge moment for me because in the stadium tours and TV appearances and actor work and DJ, I published a book in Japan and I thought I would narrow it down to one thing I really would want to do the rest of my life. I remember in my cabinet, I would listen to Jazz as a teenager at age 15 and started to learn about Jazz but didn’t finish it. Soon I got a deal from a big firm in Japan to be a pop star and put all my energy into making pop music. So that is why when I was 47 in 2008, January 10th with my tiny dog Peace, I came here in the snowy days. I started the Jazz learning at school and after graduation I stayed here in Brooklyn creating my own jazz.”
THT: Pop is a different type of sound, so will jazz be your new type of music.
Senri Oe: “When I was in school of course I am Japanese and I prefer downbeat and my counting is always a 1, 2, a 1-2-3 like that (he laughs) everyone says ‘What, where are you from’? Some of my classmates would say hey teacher and one person is very pop and I hate that Pop way now, I’m sorry but how can I do jazz. That’s problem! How can I do Jazz after classes. One day my classmate Max, an 18 year old keyboardist put his hand on the piano F7 and played and I asked him if I could take a picture of his hand, what’s that F7, E flat, G, A, G oh my gosh and I enlarged the screen when I got back home and transposed G7, G flat 7, A7, B flat 7 sounds jazz, that was the first day. The second day I wanted to look at the music chart. My jazz first day.”
“In the Pop era I always had huge strong happy root note. (he starts to make awesome jazz sounds) Little by little I started to learn the jazz sound.”
THT: What attracted you to Jazz?
Senri Oe: “When I first listened to Chris Connor jazz singer, I was so surprised when I was 15 I went to a second hand vinyl store and found a jacket of Vintage Jukebox of Chris Connor’s greatest hits, WOW, joy and sadness at the same time straight to my heart. Jazz has minor major 7 (he gives me a musical note sample). Like a big band tune but still having some sadness inside that song. That was the real reason I wanted to study jazz.”
“I was so happy when I came to New York, because in Japan as a pop star every day my manager came to my house and drove me to the places. I just had to sit down in front of the piano and play. I had to share the piano all the time with other people. As a pop star I had lots of restrictions. I liked to talk about jazz, like who was our favorite player. When I graduated at 52, my dad came to the commencement and we began like a paparazzi taking a lot of pictures of me and I threw my hat. He has lots of pictures of that day.”
THT: Do you always like wearing bow ties?
Senri Oe: “Oh yes. When I was 30 I had lots of chances to wear the bow tie and I wanted to be a more rough street fashion and sometimes funky street dress. I don’t like formal ties like then, but now I am 59 and I really love bowties, because my life is just like apple pie, so now is the best time to taste it.”
THT: How old were you when you first started playing instruments?
Senri Oe: “When I was 3 I would play the piano next to another little girl. I had a tiny toy piano from my Dad. I finally drew ebony and ivory on the wall and tried to demonstrate playing and my parents that it would be the right time to buy a upright piano at age 3. At age 10 I started composing and listen to pop music. My first teach was an 18 year old girl trying to become an opera singer. I had lessons from her and she gave me great sounds to work with like eating watermelons. Always praising me.”
“She is now in Paris and an opera singer and I am as so happy and she sent me a card and note for my birthday.”
THT: Did you take piano lesson early in your life?
Senri Oe: “My Dad is a self-taught person, so he was working for a newspaper company and as a hobby he learned to play mandarin violin, singing opera, anything. He would teach me the music. My mother was totally a housewife but loved music. I tried to go to classical college when I was 17 and went to a professor’s house to try and get auditions from him. He said after my performance, he said I did not have to go to college because I already knew how to make music. He said I have to create by yourself and be self-taught, that will work for you and I was so shocked that he told me that.”
THT: Where is your favorite place to perform?
Senri Oe: “In Brooklyn, I love it here and playing here. I do have lots of friends in LA and like it there to play. I will be going to Chicago and then to Rome and Albania, Tirana on October 11 & 12. I will be coming to Vitello’s in Los Angeles on Wednesday, November 20th. My YouTube video was shot there.”
Senri Oe Trio, Feinstein’s at Vitello’s LA
November 20 (WED), 2019
Doors: 6:30 PM / Show: 8 PM
Senri Oe (piano)
Matt Clohesy (acoustic bass)
Mark Ferber (drums)
Born: September 6, 1960 (age 59 years), Fujiidera, Osaka, Japan
Record label : PND Records
Movies: Doraemon: Nobita’s Great Adventure in the South Seas, 能登の花ヨメ
Video trailer for HMMM HERE
SENRI OE – HMMM
After an extraordinary series of performances at the Tokyo Blue Note and the Blue Note Hawaii, Senri Oe was all set to roll on HMMM, the pianist’s first ever piano, bass and drums trio project with drummer Ari Hoenig and bassist Matt Clohesy.
Not long before he was about to record at 2nd Story Sound in the East Village, Senri received an urgent call from his sister regarding their ailing father in Osaka. Knowing the time might be near, Senri returned to Japan to see them. He helped create a beautiful moment where his dad, no longer able to speak, tried to write a message on the blackboard and was able to raise a glass of beer in what would be a surreal final toast.
When Senri returned home to NYC, his sister called to tell him that their dad had passed away. Dedicated to his father, the album’s six trio pieces and three instrumentals are infused with the topsy turvy swirl of emotions the pianist had experienced during the previous month – from the highs of some of his most acclaimed ever live performances with Hoenig and Clohesy, to the sorrowful parting and celebration of the life of his father. He booked a total of three days at the studio, and locked out 11 hours the first day. Yet the outpouring of energy was so intense, that Senri romped through the three solo piano tunes in thirty minutes. The trio came in at 1:00 p.m., and was finished by 6:00 p.m.
“I feel like life is sometimes very hard, but when I think about it in a deeper way, like the album title says, Hmmm…I’m the luckiest person in the world to be given that opportunity to make that final toast,” Senri says. “In the weeks leading up to the recording, I was riding a rollercoaster of good and bad things and felt like I was in emotional limbo. I learned a lot about myself from my dad passing away. Life is tough, but you have to move forward. Life can also be more beautiful than you ever expected as you learn to ride. I make music to get fresh air, and I want people to think of me and listen to my music when they feel life is too tough to face.”
Considering the dynamic roll Senri has been on since the 2013 release of his PND Records debut Boys Mature Slow, it might surprise his fans that it has taken him until his sixth album to do a traditional trio date. The simple truth is, in the beginning he wasn’t confident enough in is artistry and considering the plethora of emerging youthful piano trios at the time; he didn’t feel there would be a big enough “piece of the pie” for him. His output since then has earned him critical acclaim from jazz magazines and blogs throughout the U.S. and Japan for his adventurous piano style and ability to ensemble in a multitude of unique settings.
Boys Mature Slow featured a two-horn quintet. Senri’s follow-up Spooky Hotel (2013) featured arrangements performed by a full big band. Senri’s eclectic discography also includes Collective Scribble (2015), with him performing as part of a straight-ahead trio featuring saxophone; and Answer July (2016), which found him vibing with renowned jazz vocal greats Sheila Jordan, Theo Bleckmann, Becca Stevens and Lauren Kinhan of the Grammy winning vocal ensemble New York Voices. On Boys & Girls, his first pure solo piano collection, Senri artfully connected his current jazz artistry with his former career as a J-Pop vocal superstar in the 80’s and 90’s, bringing fresh improvisational energy to instrumental re-imaginings of many of his classic hits.
Senri’s multitude of diverse musical explorations gave him the confidence to assemble his trio from a wish list of greats. He had played one informal gig with Hoenig and a mutual friend in 2010 that the two could barely remember, and was excited when Hoenig agreed to go on tour and later record with him. A prolific band leader in his own right, Hoenig has played extensively with Jean Michel Trio, Kenny Werner Trio, Chris Potter Underground, Kurt Rosenwinkel Group, Joshua Redman Elastic band, Jazz Mandolin Project and groups led by Wayne Krantz, Mike Stern, Richard Bona and Pat Martino. Clohesy’s expansive resume sports tours and/or recordings with Seamus Blake, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Geoffrey Keezer, Eric Reed, Ingrid Jensen, Tom Scott, Sean Jones, Gretchen Parlato, Nat Adderley, Jr., Maria Schneider and the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble.
“I like to say Ari is beyond the jam of the music,” Senri says, “and if I had the chance to make music with him, I would need a mutual mediator and someone who was very rhythmically stable, and that’s why Matt fit so well into this scenario. Ari is like a kaleidoscope of wild ideas, and I’m also a performer who brings a bunch of different colors and textures. Matt meets us right in the middle while also being very funky, versatile and creating different kinds of bright, deep sounds.” He continues, “This trio is amazing. I actually had not planned to do another recording this soon, but when we realized how strong our connection was and experienced so many standing ovations, I asked them if they wanted to make an album of this trio. Everything came together very quickly.”
Senri’s clever song titles speak to the blend of whimsy and introspection/reflection he brings to the collection. He intersperses his three brief, beautiful and graceful piano pieces – two interludes (“Freshening Up,” “When Life Was A Pizza Party”) and a postlude (“A Fireplace”) – among six lively, swinging gems that showcase Senri’s spirited, often lighthearted yet powerfully percussive trademark piano style as he interacts with the dynamics-filled grooves created by Hoenig and Clohesy.
The opening track titled “ReVision,” is divine elegant funk, with jazzy flourishes and snappy interaction between drums and piano. “Poignant Kisses” is a lively, buoyant romp featuring some of Senri’s most freewheeling playing, spunky jamming by the principals and a bouncy bass solo. The easy swinging, deeply soulful “Indoor Voices” mixes moments of joy and sorrow, with both moods reflecting Senri’s belief that our inner voices always offer us clues that take us to the next level in our lives.
The trio brings touches of sensual exotica to “Bikini,” an up-tempo, free-flowing samba with percussive accents and alternating dark chords and high-end piano dynamics. The rambunctious showstopper of the set is “Orange Desert,” a funky, vamp-driven barnburner written by Senri as he crossed the California desert at sunset with his tiny dog, on his way to Los Angeles to study percussion with the legendary Peter Erskine.
“Everything we’re doing on ‘HMMM’ goes back to that emotional rollercoaster,” Senri says. “You can’t stop it, but you can find places in your life where you feel no tension and just relax and let things flow the way they are supposed to. Ari, Matt and I found this kind of place, exchanging very organic musical ideas throughout the shows and recording of the album. Once someone had a sustainable idea he could convey, the others would catch it and from that create some incredible, unexpected interplay. After a while, we had the power to believe in each other onstage, and that chemistry translated perfectly to the studio. “