Neo Blues Maki
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Neo Blues Maki

New York City, New York, United States

New York City, New York, United States
Band Alternative Soul

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"Musicians of Queens: Neo Blues Maki"

Although this band is called Neo Blues Maki, don’t think that their sound is limited to that genre. Instead, the New York group takes on a progressive, jazzy sound that touches on everything from R&B to rock to enka, the latter of which is a type of sentimental Japanese ballad.

The band, made up of Soshi Uchida on bass, Kayo Yoshioka on vocals, Junya Yamaguchi on keyboard, David Linaburg/Kappa Tanabe on guitar and Lucianna Padmore/Mark Bell on drums, formed in New York due to Uchida, Yoshioka and Yamaguchi knowing each other when they lived in Japan.

Ucida moved to New York in 2006 and started performing at the Village Underground’s Open Mic Night, displaying his blues-jazz bass skills. Yoshioka came to New York to learn gospel music, a popular genre in the country. Yamaguchi had also moved to the City, looking for a place to put his talents as a keyboard player and arranger in jazz fusion, funk and R&B to good use.

“We got together and agreed that we could put together a unique band by having Kayo sing in Japanese while the band played New York-influenced arrangements,” Uchida said.

Soon after adding Linaburg/Tanabe and Padmore/Bell, the band quickly found a unique sound that combined the soulful aspect of Japanese music with the jazz-blues touches of New York. Based in Astoria, thanks to the residencies Uchida and Yamaguchi have there, Neo Blues Maki released their debut self-produced, self-titled record in April 2011.

They are hard at work on their next release as well. In addition to getting that album out to their fans, the group hopes to expand their New York performances to the rest of the U.S. and to other nations, such as Japan. - Queens Tribune


"Musicians of Queens: Neo Blues Maki"

Although this band is called Neo Blues Maki, don’t think that their sound is limited to that genre. Instead, the New York group takes on a progressive, jazzy sound that touches on everything from R&B to rock to enka, the latter of which is a type of sentimental Japanese ballad.

The band, made up of Soshi Uchida on bass, Kayo Yoshioka on vocals, Junya Yamaguchi on keyboard, David Linaburg/Kappa Tanabe on guitar and Lucianna Padmore/Mark Bell on drums, formed in New York due to Uchida, Yoshioka and Yamaguchi knowing each other when they lived in Japan.

Ucida moved to New York in 2006 and started performing at the Village Underground’s Open Mic Night, displaying his blues-jazz bass skills. Yoshioka came to New York to learn gospel music, a popular genre in the country. Yamaguchi had also moved to the City, looking for a place to put his talents as a keyboard player and arranger in jazz fusion, funk and R&B to good use.

“We got together and agreed that we could put together a unique band by having Kayo sing in Japanese while the band played New York-influenced arrangements,” Uchida said.

Soon after adding Linaburg/Tanabe and Padmore/Bell, the band quickly found a unique sound that combined the soulful aspect of Japanese music with the jazz-blues touches of New York. Based in Astoria, thanks to the residencies Uchida and Yamaguchi have there, Neo Blues Maki released their debut self-produced, self-titled record in April 2011.

They are hard at work on their next release as well. In addition to getting that album out to their fans, the group hopes to expand their New York performances to the rest of the U.S. and to other nations, such as Japan. - Queens Tribune


"New Blues, Old Roots"

In most cases, I tend to avoid musical acts that look like possible gimmicks. Extravagant outfits and unnecessary showmanship have always been a turn off to me. I always figured those people were trying to overcompensate for their lack of talent, hiding behind some mask, or overdone make up, or a giant luminous stage display. Any other day, I would have avoided a singer in a kimono, writing it off as a novelty, but, as I marched through Washington Square Park, I came to hear the soulful crooning of a Japanese songstress singing along to a hybrid fusion of jazz, progressive rock, and R&B. Suddenly, the kimono made sense.

This was my first encounter with Neo Blues Maki, a five-piece group of Japanese transplants and native New Yorkers seeking to push the boundaries of modern musicianship. The kimono, worn by singer Kayo, was no gimmick, but rather a symbol of Japanese pride, and a way to balance the futuristic vision of the band’s musical genius with the strong ties to their home country. Enka, a form of Japanese soul music, is the backbone of the band’s sound, but far from the complete picture. With strange and intriguing song structures, an affinity for blues inspired solos, and a seriously emotive energy, NBM’s sound becomes a beast of its own.

We joined the band in their cramped rehearsal space in Astoria, Queens to film them perform the classic Japanese enka song “Kita No Yado Kara”. Japanese symbols scattered against the purple wall as eight of us squeezed into the prison cell sized room. Kayo belted out lyrics in Japanese as Soshi, the band’s bassist and conductor, sat atop his amp, mouthing along the words and smiling in delight. Junya, looking like the Asian Steve McQueen our videographer noted, rifled away on the keyboard as David, the hooded guitarist, smoothly riffed through solos. Luci provided the heartbeat of the band, keeping the funk-filled rhythm with ease. Their rendition of the classic track was a step into another dimension, bridging the gap of traditionalist roots and multinational stadium rock. I’ve never witnessed a more appropriate kimono in NYC.

- Citizen Brooklyn


"Neo Blues Maki"

Who’s Neo Blues Maki?

Neo Blues Maki is Soshi Uchida on bass, Kayo Yoshioka on vocal, Junya Yamaguchi on keyboard, David Linaburg on guitar, and Lucianna Padmore on drums.



How you got started in the music scene?

We were all performing individually in the R&B/Gospel music scene in New York at the time we got together as a band. The idea was to have Kayo sing in her native language focusing on old school soulful songs, while the sound of the band being influenced by contemporary gospel/neo-soul/rock/fusion.



What’s the story behind the band’s name?

It’s actually a name that describes the music. “Neo Blues” is sort of a what we’re doing, and “Maki” is a Japanese word for roll as in sushi rolls. It’s how we roll our Neo Blues.



What are your music influences?

Hibari Misora is a legendary Japanese singer from the Showa-era whose craft and expressiveness were at a level of perfection, and we are always inspired by her. Musically, definitely a wide variety of artists have influenced our music. I think Meshell N’degeocello, D’angelo, Robert Glasper Experiment, Doobie Powell, and James Hall Worship and Praise are strong influences.



Talk to us more about your upcoming new album. How was the recording and writing process? What makes it different to your past work? Any release date, title yet in mind?

This is our first full album and it’s going to be a very colorful one with lots of good stuff happening. The writing is mostly done by Junya and myself(Soshi). We often start by writing an authentic old school song, and then arrange the rhythm and harmony afterwards. We record in a private studio of our own. We prefer this method because it allows us to spend as much time as necessary to achieve the right approach/take/mix. We’re hoping to finish everything in the fall. We don’t have a title yet, but whatever it’s going to be, it’ll have a good twist to it.



What’s your method at the time of writing a song?

Lyrically, we want our songs to have either profoundness, depth, shock value, or humor. We look around at what surrounds our lives and try to pick up on things which can grow into a story. We also have a list of song titles that are cool Japanese phrases or words, and try expanding from them.



What has been the funniest moment you guys have been or took part while touring?

Our very first show was pretty funny. We were trying out running tracks with live instruments, but it didn’t go too well. Due to technical difficulties, we got out of synch with the track and things sounded crazy to say the least.



Are there any more plans for the future?

We would like to perform both in the US and Japan, and even go further internationally. However, we see it as one step at a time, and New York is a great place for us to be right now.



Do you guys feel you are moving on the right direction?

Whereever Neo Blues Maki goes is always the right direction!



Check out more at: https://www.facebook.com/neobluesmaki - Vents Magazine


"Neo Blues Maki"

Who’s Neo Blues Maki?

Neo Blues Maki is Soshi Uchida on bass, Kayo Yoshioka on vocal, Junya Yamaguchi on keyboard, David Linaburg on guitar, and Lucianna Padmore on drums.



How you got started in the music scene?

We were all performing individually in the R&B/Gospel music scene in New York at the time we got together as a band. The idea was to have Kayo sing in her native language focusing on old school soulful songs, while the sound of the band being influenced by contemporary gospel/neo-soul/rock/fusion.



What’s the story behind the band’s name?

It’s actually a name that describes the music. “Neo Blues” is sort of a what we’re doing, and “Maki” is a Japanese word for roll as in sushi rolls. It’s how we roll our Neo Blues.



What are your music influences?

Hibari Misora is a legendary Japanese singer from the Showa-era whose craft and expressiveness were at a level of perfection, and we are always inspired by her. Musically, definitely a wide variety of artists have influenced our music. I think Meshell N’degeocello, D’angelo, Robert Glasper Experiment, Doobie Powell, and James Hall Worship and Praise are strong influences.



Talk to us more about your upcoming new album. How was the recording and writing process? What makes it different to your past work? Any release date, title yet in mind?

This is our first full album and it’s going to be a very colorful one with lots of good stuff happening. The writing is mostly done by Junya and myself(Soshi). We often start by writing an authentic old school song, and then arrange the rhythm and harmony afterwards. We record in a private studio of our own. We prefer this method because it allows us to spend as much time as necessary to achieve the right approach/take/mix. We’re hoping to finish everything in the fall. We don’t have a title yet, but whatever it’s going to be, it’ll have a good twist to it.



What’s your method at the time of writing a song?

Lyrically, we want our songs to have either profoundness, depth, shock value, or humor. We look around at what surrounds our lives and try to pick up on things which can grow into a story. We also have a list of song titles that are cool Japanese phrases or words, and try expanding from them.



What has been the funniest moment you guys have been or took part while touring?

Our very first show was pretty funny. We were trying out running tracks with live instruments, but it didn’t go too well. Due to technical difficulties, we got out of synch with the track and things sounded crazy to say the least.



Are there any more plans for the future?

We would like to perform both in the US and Japan, and even go further internationally. However, we see it as one step at a time, and New York is a great place for us to be right now.



Do you guys feel you are moving on the right direction?

Whereever Neo Blues Maki goes is always the right direction!



Check out more at: https://www.facebook.com/neobluesmaki - Vents Magazine


"Jazzing Up a Sentimental Ballad with Neo Blues Maki"

What do you get when you cross enka with jazz, R&B, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll? Wait – what exactly is enka, you ask?

Enka is a sentimental Japanese ballad whose melodramatic, gushing lyrics tell tales of lost love set against a backdrop of the type of sweeping music you’d hear in an elevator.

Still don’t know? Maybe this will help. Here’s a sample of the classic enka tune “Tsugarukaikyo-Fuyugeshiki” (“Tsugaru Strait – Winter Scenery”) performed by famed enka singer Sayuri Ishikawa.



Back to the original question. What do you get when you cross the sound from the video above with jazz, R&B, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll?

The answer is Neo Blues Maki, a five-member band based in New York that melds several musical genres with these sentimental Japanese ballads. Why enka? Before we look at why, let’s talk about who they are.

Neo Blues Maki is the brainchild of bass player Soshi Uchida, a native of Fukuoka. After attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Uchida returned to Japan, immersing himself in the Tokyo music scene. He performed for a variety of singers and musicians and was the leader of the jazz/funk band Grooveline, which garnered a major recording deal in Japan.


Soshi Uchida
Uchida was incredibly busy with different projects, but he eventually began to lose interest.

“The sad thing was, I wasn’t excited about any of it,” Uchida says of being a working musician in Tokyo. “The experience of performing lacked inspiration . . . I knew deep down inside I had a lot more growing to do.”

Uchida decided he could grow in New York, and in late 2006 he came here without a firm plan, other than to get a gig. It’s a leap of faith that can be intimidating for anyone, especially for Uchida, a self-described “typical reserved Japanese guy.”

“I’m not that aggressive,” Uchida admits, but he found the intestinal fortitude to attend Open Mic Night at the Village Underground every Sunday and Monday for almost a year, playing bass onstage. Through that experience Uchida met a number of talented musicians, but it was two friends he knew from Japan who helped shaped his ultimate project, Neo Blues Maki.

One friend is Kayo Yoshioka, a singer whose main goal in coming to New York was to learn gospel music. (Gospel is a hugely popular genre among Japanese people, although they tend to overlook the religious aspect of the songs.) The other is Junya Yamaguchi (aka “Junior”), a talented keyboard player and arranger with expertise in jazz fusion, funk, R&B, as well as gospel.

When the trio came together, they decided they needed something interesting and unique to pursue. Which brings us back to the question of why enka?

Yoshioka was passionate about singing in English. However, Uchida thought they could create something special. Their sound, Uchida stressed, had to have substance.

“I felt like there was something [among the trio’s roots] that had a lot of potential to entertain people in New York,” says Uchida, who didn’t want that potential to be “something where Japanese people were admiring Western music too much.” Nor did he want their music to be a version of J-pop.

“Even though Japanese culture is so popular today [in the US], it’s only the anime aspect or the Harajuku aspect, but it’s none of this traditional, soulful aspect,” says Uchida.

Uchida somehow found himself watching enka videos online while researching different genres. Enka wasn’t something Uchida listened to on a regular basis, but something clicked when he watched those videos. “It re-emphasized that these enka singers are no joke,” says Uchida.

Yoshioka is no joke either, and Uchida knew her voice could handle the soul, emotion, and expression that singing enka requires. As it turned out, Yoshioka already knew the lyrics to many enka songs by heart, having been exposed to the genre when she was young.

“Even though she hasn’t really actively been singing enka, it’s in our blood,” says Uchida. “You grow up watching the New Year’s TV show [Kohaku Uta Gassen]. Your grandfather, grandmother, your father, your mother – enka is in almost every Japanese citizen’s ear.”

Hence Yoshioka became the symbol of Japanese tradition for the band, carrying what Uchida describes as the group’s most crucial role. For performances, she dons a kimono as enka convention dictates and belts out ballads in her native Japanese.


Kayo Yoshioka at Sakura Matsuri 2011
Knowing most New York audiences weren’t going to understand the lyrics, Uchida had to come up with something that would transcend the language barrier. While they were excited that the focus of the band would be on enka vocals, Uchida and Yamaguchi weren’t particularly psyched about playing enka music.

“We were in New York being exposed to so much inspiration from the New York music scene: Gospel, R&B, jazz, hip-hop, rock, even the pop music,” says Uchida. “Everything is just so inspiring that we wanted to sort of try to make all of that mesh.”

Thus, Neo B - Japan Culture NYC


"Jazzing Up a Sentimental Ballad with Neo Blues Maki"

What do you get when you cross enka with jazz, R&B, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll? Wait – what exactly is enka, you ask?

Enka is a sentimental Japanese ballad whose melodramatic, gushing lyrics tell tales of lost love set against a backdrop of the type of sweeping music you’d hear in an elevator.

Still don’t know? Maybe this will help. Here’s a sample of the classic enka tune “Tsugarukaikyo-Fuyugeshiki” (“Tsugaru Strait – Winter Scenery”) performed by famed enka singer Sayuri Ishikawa.



Back to the original question. What do you get when you cross the sound from the video above with jazz, R&B, gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll?

The answer is Neo Blues Maki, a five-member band based in New York that melds several musical genres with these sentimental Japanese ballads. Why enka? Before we look at why, let’s talk about who they are.

Neo Blues Maki is the brainchild of bass player Soshi Uchida, a native of Fukuoka. After attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Uchida returned to Japan, immersing himself in the Tokyo music scene. He performed for a variety of singers and musicians and was the leader of the jazz/funk band Grooveline, which garnered a major recording deal in Japan.


Soshi Uchida
Uchida was incredibly busy with different projects, but he eventually began to lose interest.

“The sad thing was, I wasn’t excited about any of it,” Uchida says of being a working musician in Tokyo. “The experience of performing lacked inspiration . . . I knew deep down inside I had a lot more growing to do.”

Uchida decided he could grow in New York, and in late 2006 he came here without a firm plan, other than to get a gig. It’s a leap of faith that can be intimidating for anyone, especially for Uchida, a self-described “typical reserved Japanese guy.”

“I’m not that aggressive,” Uchida admits, but he found the intestinal fortitude to attend Open Mic Night at the Village Underground every Sunday and Monday for almost a year, playing bass onstage. Through that experience Uchida met a number of talented musicians, but it was two friends he knew from Japan who helped shaped his ultimate project, Neo Blues Maki.

One friend is Kayo Yoshioka, a singer whose main goal in coming to New York was to learn gospel music. (Gospel is a hugely popular genre among Japanese people, although they tend to overlook the religious aspect of the songs.) The other is Junya Yamaguchi (aka “Junior”), a talented keyboard player and arranger with expertise in jazz fusion, funk, R&B, as well as gospel.

When the trio came together, they decided they needed something interesting and unique to pursue. Which brings us back to the question of why enka?

Yoshioka was passionate about singing in English. However, Uchida thought they could create something special. Their sound, Uchida stressed, had to have substance.

“I felt like there was something [among the trio’s roots] that had a lot of potential to entertain people in New York,” says Uchida, who didn’t want that potential to be “something where Japanese people were admiring Western music too much.” Nor did he want their music to be a version of J-pop.

“Even though Japanese culture is so popular today [in the US], it’s only the anime aspect or the Harajuku aspect, but it’s none of this traditional, soulful aspect,” says Uchida.

Uchida somehow found himself watching enka videos online while researching different genres. Enka wasn’t something Uchida listened to on a regular basis, but something clicked when he watched those videos. “It re-emphasized that these enka singers are no joke,” says Uchida.

Yoshioka is no joke either, and Uchida knew her voice could handle the soul, emotion, and expression that singing enka requires. As it turned out, Yoshioka already knew the lyrics to many enka songs by heart, having been exposed to the genre when she was young.

“Even though she hasn’t really actively been singing enka, it’s in our blood,” says Uchida. “You grow up watching the New Year’s TV show [Kohaku Uta Gassen]. Your grandfather, grandmother, your father, your mother – enka is in almost every Japanese citizen’s ear.”

Hence Yoshioka became the symbol of Japanese tradition for the band, carrying what Uchida describes as the group’s most crucial role. For performances, she dons a kimono as enka convention dictates and belts out ballads in her native Japanese.


Kayo Yoshioka at Sakura Matsuri 2011
Knowing most New York audiences weren’t going to understand the lyrics, Uchida had to come up with something that would transcend the language barrier. While they were excited that the focus of the band would be on enka vocals, Uchida and Yamaguchi weren’t particularly psyched about playing enka music.

“We were in New York being exposed to so much inspiration from the New York music scene: Gospel, R&B, jazz, hip-hop, rock, even the pop music,” says Uchida. “Everything is just so inspiring that we wanted to sort of try to make all of that mesh.”

Thus, Neo B - Japan Culture NYC


"Neo Blues Maki"

Who’s Neo Blues Maki?

Neo Blues Maki is Soshi Uchida on bass, Kayo Yoshioka on vocal, Junya Yamaguchi on keyboard, David Linaburg on guitar, and Lucianna Padmore on drums.



How you got started in the music scene?

We were all performing individually in the R&B/Gospel music scene in New York at the time we got together as a band. The idea was to have Kayo sing in her native language focusing on old school soulful songs, while the sound of the band being influenced by contemporary gospel/neo-soul/rock/fusion.



What’s the story behind the band’s name?

It’s actually a name that describes the music. “Neo Blues” is sort of a what we’re doing, and “Maki” is a Japanese word for roll as in sushi rolls. It’s how we roll our Neo Blues.



What are your music influences?

Hibari Misora is a legendary Japanese singer from the Showa-era whose craft and expressiveness were at a level of perfection, and we are always inspired by her. Musically, definitely a wide variety of artists have influenced our music. I think Meshell N’degeocello, D’angelo, Robert Glasper Experiment, Doobie Powell, and James Hall Worship and Praise are strong influences.



Talk to us more about your upcoming new album. How was the recording and writing process? What makes it different to your past work? Any release date, title yet in mind?

This is our first full album and it’s going to be a very colorful one with lots of good stuff happening. The writing is mostly done by Junya and myself(Soshi). We often start by writing an authentic old school song, and then arrange the rhythm and harmony afterwards. We record in a private studio of our own. We prefer this method because it allows us to spend as much time as necessary to achieve the right approach/take/mix. We’re hoping to finish everything in the fall. We don’t have a title yet, but whatever it’s going to be, it’ll have a good twist to it.



What’s your method at the time of writing a song?

Lyrically, we want our songs to have either profoundness, depth, shock value, or humor. We look around at what surrounds our lives and try to pick up on things which can grow into a story. We also have a list of song titles that are cool Japanese phrases or words, and try expanding from them.



What has been the funniest moment you guys have been or took part while touring?

Our very first show was pretty funny. We were trying out running tracks with live instruments, but it didn’t go too well. Due to technical difficulties, we got out of synch with the track and things sounded crazy to say the least.



Are there any more plans for the future?

We would like to perform both in the US and Japan, and even go further internationally. However, we see it as one step at a time, and New York is a great place for us to be right now.



Do you guys feel you are moving on the right direction?

Whereever Neo Blues Maki goes is always the right direction!



Check out more at: https://www.facebook.com/neobluesmaki - Vents Magazine


Discography


Otagaisama: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album//id435128443
Kurage: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album//id435130066
Bus Driver: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album//id435185492

Photos

Bio

With a unique contemporary approach to old school Japanese soul music, Neo Blues Maki is a project launched in 2009 led by Soshi Uchida. While placing lead vocalist, Kayo Yoshioka's authentic interpretation of enka and 70's Japanese folk/pop music in the center, the band's music personifies atypical progressive arrangements created by Soshi and Junya Yamaguchi. Combined influences of members in the band reflect neo-soul, R&B, gospel, rock, funk, hip hop, and fusion. The band performed on the main stage at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Annual Sakura Matsuri in 2011, surprising the crowd with their exquisite blend of Japanese tradition and intricate yet dynamic harmony and rhythm.