Kobayashi
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Bernard Perusse (Montreal Gazette) - 2005-03-26
Saturday, March 26, 2005
POP CULTURE
Arts & Life

Moving in unison
The musicians in this group, who are so close they can finish each other's sentences, decided to make a slight shift away from hip-hop into jazzier territory

BERNARD PERUSSE
The Gazette
Saturday, March 26, 2005


Kobayashi: the band with one brain. There's a great science fiction movie in there somewhere - with a killer soundtrack that mixes jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, urban beats and just about anything you can think of. The one-brain concept comes from Franco Proietti, Kobayashi's alto sax and flute player. It could easily apply to the musical tightness that has come with spending time on the road and working in the studio recording the group's first album, Strange Lights and Resolutions, due out in June.

But Proietti was talking about something less creative, something more fueled by sleep-deprived recording/day-job balancing acts and specials on Boreale beer at the local depanneur. "If all of us were here, you'd notice that we have a tendency now to finish each other's sentences," Proietti said. "We have a vast library of inside jokes that no one will get and no one will find amusing, except for us. If we were to have a dinner and invite other people, we'd be sitting there and saying things that would seem to be non sequiturs. It can almost be annoying to people."

For better or worse, spending most waking hours together will do that to a band. The upside, of course, is the musical telepathy that comes with the territory. It was on dramatic display when Kobayashi delivered a blistering set from the Bleue Legere stage at the 2003 Montreal International Jazz Festival - an event Proietti said was the biggest thing to happen to the group so far, apart from the new disc.

Bassist Radu Falcon agreed. "When you walk out in front of 5,000 people, the energy, the noise and everything just kind of overwhelms you," Falcon said. "I remember moments in time, playing a song and looking over at the metro station, seeing people walk out and stop to listen - about three blocks away."

It was a summer highlight, after which the group retreated to its quasi-residency at Le Swimming on St. Laurent Blvd., toughening themselves up even further for their first full-length CD.

There has been a casualty along the way: rapper Omari Newton, who left the group to concentrate on an acting career. Newton's amicable departure left Proietti, Falcon, turntable wizard Evan Melnyk, drummer Billy Cicalo-Trepanier, keyboard player Chris Tauchner, tenor and soprano sax man Josh Gearey and vocalist Hadiya Roderique, aka Dee.

Newton's decision forced Kobayashi, too long oversimplified as a jazz/hip-hop band, to make a slight musical shift sooner rather than later. "The new disc is a lot jazzier, because we had been thinking of moving away from hip-hop for a while," Falcon said. "It's a lot more musical because of that, too."

"We've never wanted to be a completely vocal band," Proietti added. "We are definitely interested in exploring our instrumental aspect." Singer Roderique, who appears on half the tracks from the album, now handles all the vocal chores.

But make no mistake: the band might not sound as obsessed with the dance floor as it once was, but there's still a rough-edged core - with urban beats intact - to the many soundscapes of Strange Lights and Resolutions. It's just that this time, the group used the recording studio to full advantage, audibly deepening the sonic quality heard on the band's two EPs: the out-of-print Movements (2001) and The Night We Took the City (2003).

The EPs were basically a representation of our live show," Proietti said. This time, the group was able to indulge in the luxury of overdubbing horns or keyboard parts as needed, even using guest artist Trina Basu's violin solo after processing it through a scratching program on the Frank Zappa-esque Shasta. If you listen hard enough, that track also features Tauchner, Gearey and Proietti screaming into a piano, with the damper pedal on to create reverberation.

Both Proietti and Falcon expressed delight with the analog recording process - the relatively retro use of reel-to-reel tape - which adds warmth and presence to the organic-sounding bass and horns on the album.

"It's a bit more of an arduous process," Proietti said. "The musicians have to know what they're doing (with analog). Today, anyone with a MIDI control on a computer can make something that sounds decent."

They also nailed down the album in only seven days in January and February, with an extra four days for mixing. "We came in with a different approach, saying that the first take is usually the best because people are spontaneous and fresh," Falcon said. According to Proietti, not much on the nine-track, 68-minute disc took more than three takes.

The new disc will be on sale at Kobayashi's show at Le Cabaret on Friday. After tha - Montreal Gazette


Kobayashi
Strange Lights and Resolutions (Bongobeat)

Even with the departure of MC Omari Newton, Kobayashi are still able to fill up a stage with their jazzy, Montreal sound. Strange Lights marks a new era for these locals, who have probably recorded their ticket out of MTL with this new release, standing firm on melancholy movements and a tight rhythm section. Songs like "Shadows," which features LAL singer Rosina Kazi as well as vocalist Dee, reflect an ability to infuse multiple emotions into one song while taking the listener to another place. Other tracks like "2 cent," "Shasta" and "Midnight Ambulance" beg for live performance, but sound great at home too. 8/10 (Scott C)

- Montreal Mirror


Un nom qui sonne, ça aide à se faire remarquer. Prenez Kobayashi, par exemple. Un nom exotique, élégant, intrigant. En plus, ça fait à la fois cultivé et pince-sans-rire puisqu'on peut y voir des références au réalisateur japonais contemporain de Kurosawa et au champion mangeur de hot-dogs aussi connu sous le nom de Tsunami...

Kobayashi, dans le cas qui nous occupe, est un intéressant groupe formé de huit musiciens montréalais: Josh Gearey (saxophone), Evan Melnyk (platines), Chris Tauchner (claviers), Hadiya Roderique (chant), Radu Falcon (basse), Franco Proietti (saxophone), Omari Newton (chant) et Billy Cicalo (batterie). Des agités talentueux qui amalgament avec bonheur jazz, funk, rock et hip hop. Des cousins de la fesse gauche de ces chers Herbaliser, pourrait-on dire. Six mois après leur passage remarqué au Festival international de jazz de Montréal, sur la scène Groove, la formation souligne (très tardivement!) la parution d'un mini-album intitulé The Night We Took the City avec un concert à la Sala Rossa, jeudi. Kobayashi demeurait jusqu'ici l'un des secrets les mieux gardés du Montréal anglo, le temps est venu de propager la bonne nouvelle dans l'autre solitude! - La Presse


Sur ce premier album, la face soul et r'n'b du septuor montréalais est encore visible, ne serait-ce qu'en vertu de la voix chaude de l'excellente Hadiya Roderique, mais les pièces instrumentales indique un rapprochement d'une certaine forme de jazz, dans laquelle mélodie et riffs ont préséance sur l'improvisation libre. Oubliez les comparaisons avec Soulive et autres fanas du groove dansant; Kobayashi préfère clairement évoquer la fermeture des bars et le retour a la maison, pour une dernière consommation et une séance d'échauffement des corps. Sans se presser, en savourant les préliminaires. Spectacle-lancement au Cabaret, le 1er avril. (BB) >8 (sur 10) - Ici Montréal


KOBAYASHI Strange Lights and Resolutions (Bongo Beat)
Rating: ****

It takes incredible talent to make any contemporary acid jazz or funk-based music rise above its cheesy rep to sound hip. Montreal's Kobayashi do just that with a tasteful sense of minimalism. With their arsenal of unorthodox rhythm patterns, strong but chilled-out vocalists (Hadiya Roderique and guest Rosina Kazi), horns galore and cuts and scratches, smart violins, weathered organs, Rhodes and spooky/futuristic synth sounds, they could have gone crazy, flaunting the funk all the livelong day. Instead, Kobayashi temper their sounds, landing them on the way cooler Morcheeba/Portishead side of the fence.

Kobayashi light up Dundas Square Friday (August 26) at 6 pm.

Jason Richards
NOW | AUGUST 25 - 31, 2005 | VOL. 24 NO. 52 - NOW Toronto (08-25-2005)


The Rebirth of Kobayashi

By Melissa Wheeler
July 28, 2005

Like a death tarot card, the fascinatingly morbid press photo for seven-piece Montreal acid jazz group Kobayashi with nooses around their necks isn’t a call for a premature obit, but a signifier for change. Strange Lights and Resolutions, their first full-length after two EPs and three years together, sees the group shedding overt hip-hop and funk references and growing into jazz-centred confidence. Buttery horns twin and glide at times; at others they’re up front and forceful. The drums swing nonchalantly, masking their solidity. The keys dab mellow punctuation, the bass plucks sturdily and the turntablism has become less forthright and more atmospheric but stays just as integral to the group’s sound.

“It was a growing process where we really found what we wanted to sound like,” says saxophonist Josh Gearey. “We had a clear idea when we were going into the studio, ‘Okay we’re going to do this, this, and this, and we’re going to do it analog,’ which is something we’d never done. Our engineer was an advocate of tape, and it added a really rich sound.”

Around recording time, Rosina Kazi of Toronto’s South Asian electronic soul group LAL, happened to be in town, so she hit the studio in her snow pants to offer an off-the-cuff vocal on “Shadows.”

The group have had a line-up change, too. Their rapper departed to pursue an acting career before the LP, and singer Hadiya “Dee” Roderique left the group after the recording to head to law school in Toronto. Eleni Gogas, who was in a ska band with Gearey when they were teens, now steps up to the mic with verve.

The photo may have been intended as a comment on the so-called death of acid jazz, but with more jazz than acid in the headphones, Kobayashi need not be penning epitaphs any time soon. - Exclaim!


Sunday night belonged to Kobayashi. The Montreal jazz-hip-hop group did a 90-minute set on the Bleue Légère stage and proved that their new CD, The Night We Took the City, was not titled by wishful thinking alone. Sounding like they've been in training 24/7, they mixed new material (crowd-rousing show-closer The Game) with old favourites (Huxtables) in a tightly-paced, flab-free set. As confirmed fans and delighted initiates dispersed after the show, it seemed clear that the group had crossed a line. If there's any justice, Kobayashi will be huge.
- Bernard Perusse (Montreal Gazette) - 2003-07-02


For Montreal's upscale groove merchants Kobayashi, 2003 was a damn fine year. Granted, 2002 offered a slew of snappy billings, which saw them share stages with the likes of Greyboy, Karl Denson and Metalwood. Did "03 rank with that?

"In terms of mingling with superstars, no," says bassist Radu Falcon, "but in terms of actually getting stuff done for us, pushing the envelope and pushing projects forward, 2003 was more rewarding."

"We made a lot of big steps," adds saxophonist Josh Gearey. "Putting a CD together, that was great, but the big highlight was when we played the Jazz Fest. It was crazy, probably one of the most exhilarating shows I've ever played. There were two or three thousand people there, outside. The energy off that many people was great."

"I think we won them over, according to comments we were hearing from friends," continues Falcon, "and also the fact that we sold quite a few CDs off of that. And then our next show at le Swimming was a lot more full than usual."

THE ACID TEST

It doesn't hurt that the octet, who liberally mix up jazz, funk, R&B, hip hop and electronica, avoid the dense wankery of some comparable acts in favour of steady, fluid, understated grooves. Capable players all, the temptation to fly off on intricate if unproductive tangents must be mighty.

"We're very conscious of that," says Falcon. "I think our forte, and we recognized this a while back, is that we're not virtuoso players. We're capable, but we're not amazingly extraordinary. So we're a compositional band first, trying to push the song first at the expense of all our members - like communism, I guess." (Let it be noted that both Falcon and Gearey showed up for our chat decked out in red.)

"We've all trained ourselves to do that and, to me, the best part of this year is that we've gotten better at that."

As such, it's inappropriate to dump Kobayashi into the "jam band" basket. In fact, they show no shame in calling themselves an acid jazz band. "It's the nasty word, now," says Gearey. "We use it because that's what we started with, when we weren't sure which way we were going to go - more toward the funk, the electronica or the jazz. We had the big umbrella of acid jazz. It's a good way to describe what we do, and it gives us more freedom. If we want to do a funkier song, or more of a hip hop song like "The Game," or more of an electro song like "Catalyst," we're free to."

Muses Falcon, "What else have we been shooting around? There's been jazz-hop, urban jazz, electro-funk - on CBC's New Music Canada site, we're listed under hip hop, so I think everybody struggles with the name. I think acid jazz will have to do until somebody comes up with a name that sounds right."

CRITICAL CONDITION

Priority, though, goes to getting the sound right - reaching a perfect balance of the rhythm section with the keys and horns, the wicka-chick of Evan Melnyk's decks, Omari Newton's conscious rhymes and Hadiya Roderique's soulful crooning.

"We're getting more and more critical of what we do," says Falcon. "We used to churn out songs, now it really has to be worked and worked, really good in many different aspects, before it even gets considered. Some people are more critical than others - "

That comment prompts a mention of Melnyk the turntablist. "It's almost like we have a producer built in," chuckles Gearey, "because Evan's instrument doesn't lend itself to being thrown all over the place. He can throw in the flavours here and there, but composition-wise, he stands back and listens to what we're doing and tells us what's right or wrong."

Whatever went right, it ended up on the band's new self-released EP The Night We Took the City. "We did as good a job as we could, so we're happy about that. But the flipside of that is, we've come a long way since recording and we have a lot of new songs that we want to record.

"I think the songs are still stronger live than in the studio. Our forte right now, whether we like it or not, is that we're a live band. We do a pretty good job of live, I think."
- Rupert Bottenberg (Montreal Mirror) - 2004-01-15


This Montreal ensemble managed to create all sorts of different musical moods during their fantastic set, but they reached their highest moments when the lone female vocalist took centre stage, showcasing her powerful vocal intensity. There might still be some fine-tuning left in this operation, which brings hip-hop, funk, soul and jazz to the table, but it shouldn't be long before Kobayashi rocks larger stages with more epic results. ND
- Noel Dix (Exclaim!) - 2004-06-30


Ian Blechschmidt (Indiesounds) - 2005-06-22
Saturday:

Kobayashi at the Drake (Basement): As though fate itself was guiding our steps, our last band of the weekend, whom we found half by accident when we were looking for the bathroom, may have been the ultimate highlight, at least of Saturday night. The Montreal-based acid jazzers laid down an unfathomably smooth groove from start to finish, pleasing bar-hopper, indie hipster and punk rocker alike. Kobayashi mixed a classic jazz feel with ultra-modern style, from the vintage documentary footage being projected on the walls to the stand-up electric bass. When accompanied by their sultry vocalist, Kobayashi occasionally evoked flashes of bands like Portishead - enough to catch your ear, but never so much that they sounded anything but original.

It wasn't like they needed to after the kind of solid, genuine set they put on, but Kobayashi completely cemented their legitimacy with their encore. It started with a rendition of Dizzie Gillespie's classic "A Night in Tunisia" and wrapped up with a reggae dub joint, a la King Tubby. Then, as any good band does, Kobayashi left everyone in the joint wanting more - and sure to come back next year.

- Indiesounds


Discography

2002 - Movements EP (Independent)
2004 - The Night We Took the City EP (Independent)
2005 - Strange Lights & Resolutions (Bongobeat)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

ENGLISH:

Originally conceived as the jazzman’s surrender to the hip-hop beat, Kobayashi’s sounds have developed into an amalgamation of electronica, jazz, hip-hop and orchestral undertones. Formed at the crack of the new millennium, this seven-headed monster wasted little time infiltrating Montreal’s musical underground, and then setting its sights on the rest of the country. With a musical style set to satisfy the energetic hot-stepper, the head-bopping groove aficionado and the cerebral shadow-lurking jazz musician alike, it is fitting that Kobayashi has been blessed with a loyal and growing fan base.

Highlights of the band’s four-year existence include sharing the stage with acid jazz pioneers Digable Planets and DJ Greyboy, Juno Award winning band Metalwood and Blue Note recording artist Karl Denson. Years of diligence on the scene culminated with performances at the 2003 and 2005 Montreal International Jazz Festival in front of thousands of delighted spectators, and showcases at Canadian Music Week and NXNE in Toronto.

After two critically acclaimed EPs, the latter titled The Night We Took the City, Kobayashi recently launched their first full length effort, Strange Lights and Resolutions, in front of a sold out crowd at the Cabaret de Montreal in May 2005. Following the album’s enthusiastic reception by both fans and critics alike, the band is now pushing ahead with tour plans in Canada and abroad. Look for them in your city!

FRENCH:

Telle la conquête du jazz par le beat hip-hop, la musique de Kobayashi évolue en un amalgame de jazz, electronica, hip-hop et tonalités orchestrales. Le début du millénaire marque l’apparition de Kobayashi sur la scène musicale underground de Montréal. Depuis, ce septuor fonce pour se démarquer et faire sa renommée nationale et internationale. Doté d’un style musical à plaire tout autant aux hot-steppers, aux amateurs de groove, qu’aux musiciens de jazz pseudo-intellectuels, c’est avec grand plaisir que Kobayashi se voit suivi par un vaste public, aussi varié qu’accroché.

Les faits marquants de leur histoire comprennent des prestations avec le pionnier du acid-jazz, DJ Greyboy; le groupe Metalwood, détenteurs d’un prix Juno; et Karl Denson, saxophoniste chez Blue Note. De plus, il faut souligner leur arrivée au Festival de Jazz International de Montréal auprès de cinq mille spectateurs ravis, ainsi que plusieurs concerts dans le cadre des conférences Canadian Music Week et NXNE à Toronto.

Après deux EP reçus avec enthousiasme, le dernier étant intitulé The Night We Took the City, Kobayashi lance son premier maxi, Strange Lights and Resolutions, en avril 2005, et fait salle comble au Cabaret de Montréal. Aprés la récéption favorable de l’album, Kobayashi se retrouve en tournée au Canada et à l’étranger. Surveillez-les de près!