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Guest artists present talk and play on Japanese jazz history

by Jeanne Baron

Oct. 13, 2011 | WMU News

This event has been canceled. Updated Oct. 17, 2011.

Photo of Gregory Charles Royal.
Gregory Charles Royal
KALAMAZOO--The historical relationship of jazz in Japan will be examined in a talk and an adaption of the play "It's a Hardbop Life" at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

The program, titled "The Japanese Jazz Affect: A Discussion about the Historical Relationship of Jazz and the Japanese People," will be led by Gregory Charles Royal, a renowned jazz musician with extensive ties to Japan as a touring member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Also joining the performance will be Aiko Ishikawa, a bilingual actor who began her formal training in Tokyo at age 9.

The Japanese people share a special relationship with jazz, from their patronage of and impassioned musical participation in the genre to their romantic involvement with many of its top musicians.

Reservations are required to attend the Oct. 19 program. To make a reservation, purchase a ticket online at or contact the American Youth Symphony at or (202) 302-6703. General admission tickets are free for WMU students if they, too, make a reservation; $20 for the public; and $15 for affiliated members of the National Association of Japan American Societies.

The Japanese jazz program is being presented courtesy of the American Youth Symphony, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote instrumental music and awareness within the MTV/hip-hop generation. American Youth Symphony produced "It's a Hardbop Life," the first play to feature an entire cast of jazz musicians.

Royal, a trombonist, produced original music for the two-time Tony Award-nominated play, which he also wrote and directs. He will perform the role of "Q" and Ishikawa will perform the role of Miki. Appearing as voice actors will be Ed Moroney, Ken "Skillet" Crutchfield and Raymond Harris.

Royal has performed on Broadway in "Five Guys Named Moe" and has been a firsthand witness to the Japanese and jazz dynamic for more than 20 years. He has received a National Endowment of the Arts Study Grant and is chronicled in the book "Art Blakey Jazz Messenger" by Leslie Gourse. He earned a master's degree in jazz studies from Howard University.

Photo of Aiko Ishikawa.
Aiko Ishikawa
Ishikawa is a bilingual actor who began her formal acting training at age 9 in her hometown of Tokyo. She appeared on Japanese TV and stage until she moved to New York City to attend high school. Since earning her bachelor's degree from New York University, Ishikawa has continued her training at the Susan Batson Studio and the Upright Citizens Brigade. Also accomplished as a music and lifestyle writer for the Japanese and British media, she splits her time between New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

The performance of "It's a Hardbop Life," which will precede the evening's talk, is being sponsored by WMU's School of Music and Soga Japan Center.

For more information about the talk and play, contact Karen Smith in WMU's Haenicke Institute at or (269) 387-3780.