The Japanese Jazz scene came into its own after the end of WWII. During the war, jazz was banned in Japan as its American roots made it the music of the enemy.
After the end of the war, western forces occupied the country, and the jazz scene began to flourish. Since then, Japanese Jazz has proliferated into a variety of subgenres from nu-jazz, to acid jazz and jazz fusion.
The genre incorporates a broad range of influences from all over the world making Japanese jazz particularly diverse in sound. Japanese jazz has had a boost in popularity in recent years with some of the genre’s classic albums gaining popularity on YouTube.
The smooth sound of early Japanese jazz artists have also been sampled in a variety of modern music from indie artists to SoundCloud rappers bringing the genre more recognition.
Although Japanese jazz artists from the 70s and 80s are receiving more recognition, the genre is very much alive and thriving with a lot of active contemporary groups. This article will introduce you to some classic names within the genre as well as emerging contemporary Japanese jazz musicians.
Check out our Japanese jazz Spotify playlist here to hear the artists featured on this list.
SOIL & ‘’PIMP’’ SESSIONS
Formed from the Tokyo club scene at the turn of the millennium, the eccentric SOIL & ‘’PIMP’’ SESSIONS are one of the most well-known Japanese jazz bands around.
They take inspiration from a wide range of jazz genres from bebop to Latin American jazz.
The sextet has put out an impressive 15 albums since their conception in 2001. Enter into the chaos that these jazz innovators have to offer by starting with ‘Spartacus Love Theme’ off their 2014 album Brother’s & Sister’s.
Jazz Pianist Ryo Fukui put out his first album Scenery in 1976 which has become an all-time classic Japanese jazz album.
The album exemplifies Ryo Fukui’s dexterity and talent as a jazz pianist making this album not only a pleasure to listen to but technically impressive. At the time of its release, this album was virtually ignored by American audiences but recently the album increased in popularity significantly due to exposure via YouTube.
Scenery has experienced such attention in recent years that it has now been reprinted for sale. Sadly, Ryo Fukui never got to see the love this album now commonly receives, but its consolidation as a classic within the genre continues his legacy.
Kyoto Jazz Massive
Kyoto Jazz Massive were one of the first nu-jazz groups, incorporating electronic and funk elements into their music. Brothers Shuya and Yoshihiro Okino started DJing and remixing tracks in the early 90s and are still releasing music together.
The album Message from A New Dawn released in 2021 contains some excellent tracks such as ‘Astral Ascension’ and ‘Primal Echo.’
Kyoto Jazz Massive represents an exciting part of the contemporary scene, melding funk with jazz excellently. The group is signed to German record label Compost Records which is known for progressive nu-jazz, incorporating elements from genres as diverse as techno and bossa nova.
United Future Organisation
Formed in the 1990s from the underground Tokyo club scene, United Future Organisation (sometimes referred to as UFO) were one of the groups that pioneered the genre of Japanese acid jazz.
The nu-jazz trio incorporated styles from hip hop, breakbeat, and jazz to create some of the coolest music to come out of this genre.
Tracks like ‘LOUD MINORITY’ and ‘I LOVE MY BABY my baby loves jazz’ from their 1992 album Jazzin’ became club classics and remain great dance tunes to this day.
While Toshio Matsuura quit in the late 90s, the two remaining members, Tadashi Yabe and Raphael Sebbag, continued to put out music as United Future Organisation. Their albums Jazzin’ and Bon Voyage are not to be missed.
Hiroshi Suzuki is one of the most-revered Japanese jazz artists, even if most listeners are only familiar with his work thanks to the number of times his music has been sampled.
The song ‘Romance’ from the album Cat released in 1975 has been sampled most notably in the J.Cole remix of ‘Can I Kick it?’ by A Tribe Called Quest and in a $uicideboy$ song as well as numerous others.
The original is definitely worth listening to and Cat in particular remains an undisputed classic within the Japanese jazz genre.
Masabumi Kikuchi, was a legendary jazz pianist both known to New York and Japanese audiences in his lifetime.
Kikuchi worked with the likes of Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Mccoy Tyner, and other renowned names in the world of jazz. Throughout his career Kikuchi explored a variety of genres from experimental and avant-garde to classical and fusion.
If you want a taste of Kikuchi’s experimental music, then check out his 1971 release Posey: The Man Who Keeps Washing His Hands.
Last year in 2021, six years after his passing, the label Redhook released Kikuchi’s final studio recordings which featured several versions of the track ‘My Favourite Things’ as well as 4 other tracks.
Playing saxophone and flute, Sadao Watanabe is amongst the best-known Japanese jazz artists. Throughout his career he has put out an incredible amount of music, surpassing a total of 70 albums of which he led.
Wantanabe incorporated bossa nova influences into his music and from the mid-1960s played a variety of styles with his own quartet.
As they toured Japan and the rest of the world the group performed bop, jazz-rock, and Brazilian music. Watanabe also promoted jazz music across Japan through his radio show ‘My Dead Life’ for over 20 years starting in the 1970s. Well into his eighties, Watanabe has continued to release music.
His last release was Sadao 2019: Live at Blue Note Tokyo was a concert album where he performed alongside John Patitucci, Russell Ferrante and Steve Gadd.
TRI4TH are a jazz quintet from Tokyo who create danceable jazz music. The group are known for their engaging live performances and have performed all over the world at various festivals.
Last year the group celebrated their 15th anniversary of the formation of the band with an anniversary tour and the release of their most recent album GIFT.
This album is energetic and fun, so a brilliant introduction to TRI4TH’s discography. The song ‘Guns of Saxophone’ from their 2017 album 4TH Rebellion is a great place to start.
Shigeo Sekito is another renowned Japanese jazz musician, especially famous for his proficiency on the Electone.
Throughout the 70s and 80s Sekito released four LPs as part of a series entitled the ‘Special Sounds Series.’
The riff in his most famous track by far, ‘The Word 2,’ was used by indie artist Mac Demarco in his song ‘Chamber of Reflection.’ Special Sounds Volume 2 remains his most listened to album and feels like a time capsule to 1970s Japan with the sounds of the electric organ.
Jazztronik is the performing name of Ryota Nozak, a Japanese DJ and producer who combines elements of Japanese jazz with house music.
His work as Jazztronik has gained him international popularity performing in America, United Kingdom and across the rest of Europe.
Nozak draws on influences from classical jazz and uses them in both ambient and house music. Jazztronik is certainly one of the best names creating Japanese nu-jazz currently. His 2003 album SET FREE is his most popular, and a great way into his discography.
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Who were some of the most well known jazz artists name 5? ›
- Miles Davis.
- Louis Armstrong.
- John Coltrane.
- Charles Mingus.
- Thelonious Monk.
- Ella Fitzgerald.
- Charlie Parker.
- Duke Ellington.
Many jazz festivals discontinued after the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, jazz is still a very important element in Japanese culture and Japan is known worldwide among musicians for its serious audience.Why is jazz famous in Japan? ›
Jazz music first became popular in Japan following visits by bands from both America and the Philippines, where American popular music had been introduced by the occupying forces. The Hatano Jazz Band is sometimes described as the first Japanese jazz band, although they were primarily a dance band.Who were 5 major artists that were popular in 1920s? ›
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- Eddie Cantor. 39,543 listeners. ...
- Sophie Tucker. 24,172 listeners. ...
- Bessie Smith. 312,280 listeners.
- Early Jazz/New Orleans & Chicago Style Dixieland (1920-1930) CHARACTERISTICS: Use of collective improvisation (polyphony). ...
- Swing/Big Band Era (1930-1945) ...
- Bop (1945-1950) ...
- Cool (1950-1955) ...
- Hard Bop (1955-1960) ...
- Free Jazz/Avant Garde (1960s) ...
- Fusion/Jazz-Rock (1970s) ...
- Eclecticism (1980s & 90s)
Buddy Bolden, Sidney Bechet, Bunk Johnson, Jellyroll Morton, Kid Ory, King Oliver… Historians generally point to Buddy Bolden, a cornet player, as the first jazz musician.What is Japan's No 1 music artist? ›
The best-selling artist according to Oricon are B'z (more than 82 million), who is also the best-selling artist by a number of albums sold (46.5 million). The best-selling artists by number of singles sold are AKB48 (50.8 million), B'z (35.8 million) in second place, Mr.Why is J-pop not popular? ›
Missing the digital media train and a failure to see beyond the domestic market are big reasons for J-pop's decline. While K-pop has never been more successful around the world, sales of J-pop fell by 50 percent over the past 15 years.What are the 2 popular music of Japan? ›
Music is central in a much of Japanese theatre. The two main forms are Noh and Kabuki. Noh can be traced back to the Heian period (794-1192); its otherworldly dance-drama performances, passed down through generations, have remained largely unchanged.When was jazz banned in Japan? ›
In 1927, municipal officials in Osaka issued a ban on jazz, seeing the genre itself as a representation of American values and the spread of the genre as the encroachment of American culture onto Japanese soil.
Why is Japan so attractive? ›
Japan is one of the oldest civilizations and has a beautiful and diverse history. The stunning, diverse scenery with mountains and breathtaking views, which are much appreciated by the Japanese, offers so many different experiences that attract tourists from all corners of the world.How do you spell jazz in Japanese? ›
ジャズ (jazu) jazz (noun)What artist is #1 in the world? ›
As of November 2022, Taylor Swift has the most monthly listeners on Spotify for a female artist, and The Weeknd has the most monthly listeners on Spotify for a male artist. Ed Sheeran is the most-followed male artist, and Ariana Grande is the most-followed female artist.Who is the #1 artist of all time? ›
Top-selling artists worldwide as of 2022. Perhaps unsurprisingly, British rock band The Beatles are top of the list for best-selling artists worldwide, with 183 million units certified sales. Second is Garth Brooks with over 157 million units sales, followed by Elvis Presley with 139 million units.Who is the 1 best artist in the world? ›
|1||Michael Jackson||Pop, Soul, Funk, R&B, Rock, Disco, & Dance|
|2||Stevie Wonder||Soul, Pop, R&B, Funk, & Jazz|
|3||Marvin Gaye||Soul, R&B, Funk, Pop, & Jazz|
|4||Freddie Mercury||Hard Rock, Music Hall, Glitter, & Prog Rock|
The best-selling artist of 2022, according to music experts, is Drake, who also reached the pinnacle of his career in the rap music genre. His work brought the biggest profit this year.Who are the top 3 artists? ›
|Popularity ranking||Artist||Fans tracking|
|01||Drake||Fans tracking: 4,719,222|
|02||Rihanna||Fans tracking: 4,715,639|
|03||Coldplay||Fans tracking: 4,673,481|
|04||Eminem||Fans tracking: 4,630,298|
Popular numbers in the 1920s were pop hits such as "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Dinah" and "Bye Bye Blackbird". The first jazz artist to be given some liberty in choosing his material was Louis Armstrong, whose band helped popularize many of the early standards in the 1920s and 1930s.How did the Jazz Age end? ›
The Jazz Age, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was an era of American history that began after World War I and ended with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.
What 3 genres make up jazz? ›
African-American musical traditions mixed with others and gradually jazz emerged from a blend of ragtime, marches, blues, and other kinds of music. At first jazz was mostly for dancing.When did jazz start dying? ›
If we are to say jazz took on a new life in the swing era, then Dixieland jazz as an innovative music died in the 1920s.Who is king of jazz? ›
In his autobiography, Duke Ellington declared, "Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity."Why is jazz called jazz? ›
The word “jazz” probably derives from the slang word “jasm,”which originally meant energy, vitality, spirit, pep. The Oxford English Dictionary, the most reliable and complete record of the English language, traces “jasm” back to at least 1860: J. G. Holland Miss Gilbert's Career xix.Is BTS from Japan? ›
BTS (Korean: 방탄소년단; RR: Bangtan Sonyeondan), also known as the Bangtan Boys, is a South Korean boy band formed in 2010 and debuting in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment.Who is Japan's most famous artist? ›
Perhaps the most famous contemporary Japanese artist, known for her polka dots, Yayoi Kusama, is a multidisciplinary person who has an expansive practice in installation, sculpture, film, fashion, and painting among other mediums.
Leading music genres Japan 2020
According to a survey conducted in Japan in December 2020, almost 81 percent of the respondents liked Japanese pop, rock, or dance music.
To distinguish it from its Japanese counterpart, Korean animation is often called hanguk aeni (Korean: 한국 애니; lit. Korean animation) or guksan aeni (Korean: 국산 애니; lit. domestic animation).Is K-pop or J-pop better? ›
Nowadays, due to this global popularity, many people think that Korean pop music is better than Japanese pop music because of this popularity. But let's be honest there. Saying that they're much better than J-pop songs or performances is entirely wrong and subjective, and both styles have their audience.Is C pop a thing? ›
C-pop, or Chinese popular music, is music made by artists in the Greater China region, comprising mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. There are three main subgenres of C-pop: Cantopop, Mandopop, and Hokkien pop.
What song is number 1 in Japan? ›
The current number-one on the chart as of the issue dated November 9, 2022, is "Subtitle" by Official Hige Dandism.What is Japan famous song? ›
What is Japan's Most Popular Song? Japan has had its fair share of talented artists and popular songs. The best-selling single is “Oyoge! Taiyake-kun” by Masato Shimon.Does Japanese have an accent? ›
When you travel around Japan or watch some anime, you might recognize people talk differently sometimes with unique accents. Japan consists of 47 prefectures and like other countries have the dialect of each region, Japan as well has distinct dialects in each region.Who were the 3 most popular jazz musicians from the 1950's? ›
Specials featured top jazz performers such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and many others.Who wrote jazz 5? ›
It was written by his legendary saxophonist, Paul Desmond. The song came from the album Time Out which spent 164 weeks on the Billboard 200 in 1959, and was the first jazz LP to sell one million copies.Who is the most famous jazz? ›
- 1 Louis Armstrong71%
- 2 Frank Sinatra69%
- 3 Nat King Cole69%
- 4 Ella Fitzgerald61%
- 5 Billie Holiday60%
- 6 Duke Ellington58%
- 7 Tony Bennett57%
- Sammy Davis, Jr. 56%
Louis Armstrong was born in a poor section of New Orleans known as “the Battlefield” on August 4, 1901. By the time of his death in 1971, the man known around the world as Satchmo was widely recognized as a founding father of jazz—a uniquely American art form.Who invented jazz? ›
Nick La Rocca, the Original Dixieland Jass Band's cornet player and composer, claimed that he personally invented jazz – though the cornetist Buddy Bolden had a much better claim, or even the Creole artist Morton, who certainly was the first to write jazz out as sheet music and always said he'd invented it.What are 3 famous musicians? ›
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- Claude Debussy (1862–1918) ...
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–93) ...
- Frédéric Chopin (1810–49)
Billie Eilish Sticks With Her New Jazzy Theme By Covering 'I'm In The Mood For Love' Billie Eilish let fans know early on that her next era was going to be a departure from the sound that defined her debut album.
Is jazz as a genre dead? ›
With one foot in the past and the other in the present, jazz can be defined as a larger evolving musical genre and cultural entity in a cycle of constant renewal. As long as it maintains personal identity through homage to its roots, it is jazz. As long as it keeps innovating and evolving, it is alive.Is jazz losing popularity? ›
Today, although jazz music continues to be played and enjoyed around the world, it has become, along with classical music, one of the least-popular genres in the United States, according to recent sales figures.What is the rarest jazz record? ›
Jelly Roll Morton's “The Pearls” Record.
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