Category Archives: smooth jazz

Peter Kater & Carlos Nakai – Themes from EARTH & SURRENDER

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Koto Jazz 83: Song Stories- Wandering Rhino Bug

If our local Seattle grunge band The Presidents of the United States of America can get away with writing songs about bugs (Boll Weevil, Lady Bug), I figure I can too.

This is a fun, eclectic koto jazz tune about one of my most memorable life experiences. My brother, Uncle Yasushi and I used to go hunting, not for a rhinosaurus with a gun, but for rhinosaurus beetles with a net in rural Japan. They make for popular pets in Japan, as do so many exotic insects. The less adventurous just go to the local insect pet store, and are able to purchase them. We preferred the tree climbing approach where the “Kabuto mushi” (Rhinosaurus beetle) dwell. Unfortunately, the last of my bug collection was soaked up by the summer flood of 2014 in Boulder, Colorado.

This version was recorded live at Egan’s Jam House in Ballard last weekend, November 21st, and was one of a number of new songs I introduced at the show. Here is the recording: Wandering Rhino Bug

Egan’s Jam House – Another Cool Koto Jazz night in Ballard

I really got into a zone rockin’ the piano. Sometimes it feels like I’m connecting to the true “Seattle Sound”, an almost eclectic, grunge sound on the keyboard. . . if that is possible. Live recordings will be coming soon. The feedback I have from a handful of attendees last night at Egan’s Jam House tells me these were the most well received tunes:

1) The Hummingbird song (no surprise, I rocked it; Hatchidori wa Hana Kara Hana e Tobu);
2) Tide Pools @ Waves (no surprise, this one reached the top 10 out of 80k songs on soundclick.com);
3) Odds & Endings (same as Tide Pools);
4) Ripples on Creek Rocks (surprised, this is the one that aired on KSFK NPR jazz radio, in S. Alaska, and I still don’t know why)
5) Mount Index Ice Caves (surprised, an acquired taste; haunting sounds)
6) Thanksgiving (surprised, this one by Peter Kater)

Worth a listen here @ Chris Kenji Beer on Soundclick.com

Thanks so much y’all for coming. (no more singing, I promise, except by Marie. Lol.)

Michelle, Earl, Rob & Matt hanging out after the show @ Egan's Jam House Ballard
Michelle, Earl, Rob & Matt hanging out after the show @ Egan’s Jam House Ballard
Ed Yakuzawa, photo by Allan Camhi after the show @ Egan's Jam House Ballard
Ed Yakuzawa, photo by Allan Camhi after the show @ Egan’s Jam House Ballard
Chris Kenji on piano
Chris Kenji on piano
Egan's Jam House in Ballard from one of Marie's friends.
Egan’s Jam House in Ballard from one of Marie’s friends.

Join Me This Saturday, Nov. 21st in Ballard @ Egan’s Jam House

Come join me, Chris Kenji, Saturday, November 21st, 9:00 pm – 10:30pm, at Egan’s Jam House in Ballard, northwest Seattle. I will bring you new songs on the piano, including Odds & Endings, Seascape, and my new Koto Jazz piece, Motto Midare (More Chaos).

I will also sing a few popular classic rock/ folk songs with an eclectic alternative style. In between these vocals, I will play my “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” tunes. $5.00 cover. For directions and map, visit map here: 1707 NW Market Street (Ballard), Seattle; Call or text: 206-200-2733.

Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer @ The Royal Room

It was a relaxing night of playing at the Royal Room on Tuesday night, and the modest- sized audience was very generous with their contributions. To friends and fans, thanks so much for coming on a weeknight. The donations were solid, so I call it a good night. It means they either really liked your music, or they really, really felt sorry for you. Lol. I say it means you “approve this message”, so thanks. It is also possible we found an introduction to Paul Simon in the audience. 😉

The evening started with a few original works that will be included in my second CD, and a Koto Jazz tune include:
– Falling Leaves
– Seascape
– Haystack Horse Trot
– Protective dissonance

Marie chimed in with vocals for the following ballads:
– Fragile by Sting
– Rivers & Roads
– Make You Feel My Love
– Goodnight Irene

Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer with Marie's friends.
Marie Bolla & Chris Kenji Beer with Marie’s friends.
Marie singing and on keyboard.
Marie singing and on keyboard.
Rob Ingram & Jay Gray at the Royal Room, Columbia City, South Seattle
Rob Ingram & Jay Gray at the Royal Room, Columbia City, South Seattle
Marie Bolla with Victory Music members David John and Ed Yakuzawa @ The Royal Room.
Marie Bolla with Victory Music members David John and Ed Yakuzawa @ The Royal Room.
The Royal Room, November 27 @ 7:30 - 9:30pm, Columbia City, South Seattle.
The Royal Room, November 27 @ 7:30 – 9:30pm, Columbia City, South Seattle.

KFSK Radio, NPR Syndicate Airs Koto Jazz, “Ripples On Creek Rocks”

It’s nice to have one of my songs airing on NPR syndicate KFSK Radio in Petersburg, Alaska’s Rainforest Festival music playlist (September).

Here is that song, at Amazon Music: Ripples on Creek Rocks,

and a link to the same song on Soundclick.com: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=1382715

Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji on Stage @ Royal Room, October 27th

Marie Bolla will sing beautiful classic folk/ contemporary jazz songs with Chris at the keyboards. Marie has played piano and sang nearly her entire life, and has received local awards for her performances. She has played with the popular Seattle area bands. The first half of the show will feature Chris Kenji’s new piano instrumental tunes for his second CD “Sounds from the Coast”, to be followed by Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji in a keyboard duet with Marie singing solo.

Come join us OCTOBER 27th, 7:30-9:30pm (Tuesday),“Sounds from the Coast”, by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla at the The Royal Room, Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood ; no cover charge. “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla. For directions and map, visit map to Royal Room, Seattle. Address: 5000 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, WA 98118; Call or text: 206-200-2733.

KotoJazz 78: Top 10 on Soundclick – Tide Pools & Waves

  • Tide Pools & Waves reached as high as #2 and #4 in the “World” ranking (out of over 80,000 songs) and “New Age” (out of over 13,500 songs) categories over the weekend, respectively. It remained for a week at #26 and #10. Other Koto Jazz tunes reaching the Soundclick.com charts are:
  • Ripples On Creek Rocks in the top 10 of the “Acoustic Piano” category of nearly 9,000 songs.
  • Gratitude in the top 40 of the “Acoustic Piano” category of nearly 9,000 songs.
  • My Sakura reached top 5 and Tori No Yo Ni reached the top 10 for two weeks in the “Traditional Asian” category of 13,500 songs in the World charts.
  • Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 musicians!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer’s “Tide Pools & Waves” Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 songs!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 musicians!
    Koto Jazz by Chris Kenji Beer Reaches Top 10 in New Age charts, Top 26 in World charts of over 80,000 songs!
    Ripples on Creek Rocks, Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Acoustic Piano charts.
    Ripples on Creek Rocks, Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Acoustic Piano charts.
    Like A Bird (Tori No Yo Ni), Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Traditional Asian, World charts category.
    Like A Bird (Tori No Yo Ni), Koto Jazz song by Chris Kenji Reaches Top 10 in Traditional Asian, World charts category.

    An Evening of Elegance: 55th Anniversary Garden Party at the Japanese Garden

    This anniversary party was filled with positive interactions with the attendees between breaks and after my performance. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to meet new people intrigued by and find enjoyment from my music, but on a broader level, Japanese culture. It’s so good to be connected to such a wonderful, kind, generous, forgiving, and loving community in Seattle.

    As I played the third song of the night, Tomio Moriguchi, otherwise known as “Mr. Uwajimaya”, came up to me and said he loved the first piece I played, Sakura, and of course I obliged to play it again. A true honor to have known you Tomio through the years, first meeting you in the early 90s karaoking with you and the late Joyce Yoshikawa at Bush Garden, getting caught up at the Bon Odori through the years, your reminders of how much you appreciated my sister Kimberley’s summer JAS programs with your family (yes Kimberley, Tomio asks about you every time!) and now, how could one not play a song for your memory in such a magical setting as Seattle’s Japanese garden! For the person who quite possibly brought more Japanese food and gifts to America than anyone in America! Domo, domo, domo. The people of Seattle’s Japanese Garden, so many of the attendees such as Tomio, The Sasakis (Cherry Blossom Festival and Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble) have colored this city of Seattle with the beautiful wonders of Japanese arts and culture for which I am eternally grateful.

    Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum
    Setting up at the Seattle Japanese Garden, University of Washington Arboretum

    University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden
    University of Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden

    The koto tunes I played at this event were:

  • My Sakura,
  • Haru No Umi (The Sea in Springtime),
  • Tori No Yo Ni (Like A Bird),
  • Aki No Hou (Toward Autumn Season), and
  • Tide Pools And Waves (Shiyodamari to Nami).
  • Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.


    I was immediately followed by a traditional Japanese dance by Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble (pictured here):

    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum.
    Seattle Japanese Garden 55th Anniversary garden party, University of Washington Arboretum. I saw familiar faces at the event, including Tazue Sasaki of the Fujima Fujimine Dance Ensemble, her husband Yutaka Sasaki, and members of the Japanese Consulate.

    Koto Jazz 77: Kawabe House Annual Reception

    There are good folks volunteering at the Kawabe Memorial House, a senior center in Seattle. Here are a few pics from the annual reception. There was good food, good company, and I hope everyone enjoyed my music. I played for about a half hour, mostly Koto jazz pieces and their lovely Korean upright piano. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers for your wonderful hospitality.

    kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.
    kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.

    <a href="https://kotojazz.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/wp_001032.jpg"><img src="https://kotojazz.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/wp_001032.jpg?w=300" alt="kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji." width="300" height="225" class="size-medium wp-image-2308" /></a> kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji.
    [caption id="attachment_2308" align="alignnone" width="300"]kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji. kawabe memorial house annual volunteer reception with koto jazz by Chris Kenji Beer.

    KotoJazz 76: Kawabe House & 55th Anniversary of UW Arboretum Japanese Garden Preview

    When I first returned to Seattle as an adult in 1990 (I was born here), I started playing piano at senior homes, mostly George Winston and Scott Cossu re-runs. Today, I bring my own originals to senior venues as a volunteer to share with fellow Japanese Americans. My hope is they will connect with its Japanese koto music influences and enjoy listening to the tunes I play today.

    I will be playing at the Kawabe Memorial House on Friday, June 26th. This event will also be a good warm up along with other volunteer performances for the 55th Anniversary of University of Washington Arboretum’s Japanese Garden celebration on July 24th. I was chosen among numerous applicants to play for this exclusive event.

    Having played at the Seattle Center for the 40th Annual Japanese Cultural Festival in April, this has been a year of re-connecting with the Japanese communities in Seattle where I enjoy a solid following. The ”Koto Jazz & 55th Anniversary Event of the UW Arboretum Seattle Japanese Garden“ is “an evening of Japanese Arts and Cuisine to Benefit Seattle Japanese Garden”. The garden becomes the backdrop for an elegant fete of scrumptious Japanese cuisine with fine wines and sake, a Nodate tea ceremony, and traditional performance arts during this 55th anniversary benefit event. All are welcome to attend by contacting Tel: 206.684.4725; seattlejapanesegarden.org.

    Koto Jazz 74: playing @ 101 Public House pub

    Half time playing a piano gig at the pub in South Bend/ Raymond, the oyster capital of the world. And two Koto Jazz fans! This was so much more relaxing than a few weeks ago when I played at the Seattle Center. Ahhh, the taste of the ocean air , a couple koto jazz tunes . . .. and more oysters . …

    Koto Jazz 66: Gong Hay Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year! (belated)

    Come join a celebration at the end of the Chinese New Year on March 6th, 6-8pm, Friday, Dragonfly Holistic Healing across from the Fremont bridge is having a “Chinese New Year” celebration open house, featuring koto jazz piano by Chris Kenji at Dragonfly Holistic Healing, 760 N. 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103; Fremont neighborhood. Website: DragonflyHolisticHealing.com. Come join us for a Free Admission party. Gang Xi Fat Cai!

    KotoJazz 62: Song Stories- Wandering Kabuto Mushi

    “Wandering Kabuto Mushi” is a tune about the wandering rhinoceros beetle, or Kabuto mushi. This Japanese beetle is a prized pet among children who raise them and care for them like pets in Japan.

    One of my most joyful and memorable experiences of childhood was going out beetle and bug hunting with my Uncle Yasushi outside of Omiya. We climbed trees to observe and catch the Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle in the wild. I was 6 or 7 at the time. We would also hunt for and catch other exotic bugs such as stag beetles and “semmi” or cicadas. Different from the cicadas I’ve seen in he States, the Japanese semmi can be a gorgeous aqua green to blue color, or even orange to fiery red. There is an entire mini industry and bug pet raising culture in Japan, especially in the rural communities of Japan.

    This song Wandering Kabuto Mushi is about the slow and steady nature of this prized Japanese pet, like the slow moving but wise tortoise.

    Unfortunately, my vast collection of rhinoceros beetles and other exotic bugs which I had stored at my mother’s place in Boulder was swept away and destroyed by last year’s flood. Some family friends were forced out of their homes, and others lost their lives, so the loss of my skeleton insect relics were small compared to that. Still, I miss them, but this simple song carries on my memories of them.

    This version was recorded live at Egan’s Jam House in Ballard November 21st 2016, and was one of a number of new songs I introduced at the show.

    Koto Jazz 61: Song Stories – Searching for the Rising Sun

    “Searching for the Rising Sun” is a memorial piece for my father who passed away at this time last year. As myself, dad spent his life seeking to share his understanding of Japan and East Asia with the west. He was an educator by trade. I’m a musician and sales person, but the end goal is the same.

    The title of the tune is truly reflective of his aim — a search for the land of the Rising Sun, representing Japan.