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idris ackamoor and the pyramids News | Concerts
SFMUSIC DAY 2015 Showcases 33 Ensembles, 148 Musicians

A marathon day of music-making featuring 33 ensembles featuring 148 musicians will fill the recently renovated War Memorial Veterans Building’s Herbst Theater and Green Room in San Francisco for the eighth edition of SFMUSIC DAY: Live + Free. This free annual event brings together a vivid cross-section of Bay Area artists representing jazz, classical, creative, and "new" music in one epic day: Sunday, October 25. The annual free music day is present by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.

Guided by curator Kevin Chen and orchestrated by SFFCM Executive Director Dominique Pelletey, the curatorial focus for this annual gathering of top-flight acoustic and chamber musicians is an open-ended theme of hybridity and musical migration, celebrating San Francisco’s key role as a "port of call" and cultural epicenter of the Pacific Rim. "The Field Report," a two-hour showcase taking place at 5 pm in the Green Room and curated by composer, bandleader and educator Dr. Anthony Brown, will provide a richer exploration of this year's theme by celebrating San Francisco's critical role in the development of Asian American Jazz.

In its nascent days, Asian American Jazz was palpably influenced by the Asian American consciousness movement led by student activists radicalized by the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement and the Free Speech Movement of the 60’s. During this time diverse communities, each with their own unique culture and history, banded together to form a self-identified group of Asian Americans.

In the late 1970s Asian American jazz musicians in the Bay Area found themselves disenfranchised with racial and political barriers presented by mainstream institutions of jazz and creative music and banded together as a unified network with a grassroots DIY ethic.


Asian American musician and performance artist Brenda Wong Aoki

"We were trying to be active with our music and trying to identify with the Asian American consciousness movement," says Asian-American Jazz forerunner and Asian Improv Records co-founder Francis Wong. "It was a very positive period. If it wasn’t for that time we would not have been moved to create a lot of the work in the context that we did... We wouldn't have been moved to create an organization or vehicle if it wasn't for that political context."

The Asian American Jazz Festival cemented a de facto musical movement by launching its first event in San Francisco in 1981. Running annually until 2006, the festival featured a succession of major Asian American Jazz figures including bassist Anthony Brown, Mark Izu, Jon Jang, Miya Masaoka, Fred Ho, Vijay Iyer, Hafez Modirzadeh, and many, many more.

This year, which marks the occasion of the Asian American Jazz Festival's 35th anniversary, SFFCM will present a "field report" that will trace the roots and developments of one of the Bay Area's most fascinating musical movements.

Featured Performers at This Year's Live + Free Concerts

Brown, Izu, and Lewis Jordan are former members of United Front, recognized as the first Asian American Jazz group to record and receive international critical acclaim. All members have remained active in the SF music scene since 1980, with bassist Izu and percussionist Brown particularly impacting Asian American jazz as leaders, composers and curators. Saxophonist and poet Jordan hails from Chicago and was a primary innovator in the creative music scene in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, teaming with St. Louis native George Sams to form United Front with Izu and Carl Hoffman. The group formed their own record label, RPM Records, and released their first recording, "Path With a Heart," in 1980. In early 1981, Dr. Brown replaced Hoffman just before the group recorded their second album, "Ohm: Unit of Resistance." After United Front disbanded in early 1986, Jordan and Izu workd as a duet before forming the music-performing arts quartet SoundSeen with Brenda Wong Aoki and Sachiko Nakamura. From 1987-94, Izu and Brown also toured and recorded with Jon Jang's Pan-Asian Arkestra.

Writer/performer Aoki and composer/musician Izu began creating original music and monodrama in 1985. Known for their agility across disciplines, they have created works for symphony and received INDIE Awards for Best Spoken Word. Recently Izu has been inducted into the Grove Dictionary of Music as a composer and a founder of Asian American Jazz. As a film composer, Izu's music was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary "Days of Waiting," and in 2009 Izu won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music for his score in "Bolinao 52." In 2014, Aoki won an Oracle award from the National Storytelling Network for being the first nationally recognized Asian Pacific storyteller in the U.S.

Shoko Hikage began playing koto at the age of three. In 1988, she graduated from Takasaki College with a major in koto music. She was then accepted as a special research student at the Sawai Sokyoku In under Tadao and Kazue Sawai, where she received her master's certificate. Hikage began performing with Aoki and Izu in 1998, and is featured in their latest recording, "The Music of MU," released in 2013.


Pianist/composer Jon Jang performs at this year's SFMUSIC DAY

Pianist/composer Jon Jang has recorded with Max Roach, James Newton and David Murray. His ensembles have toured at major concert halls and music festivals in Europe, China, Canada, United States and South Africa. Jang was selected as one of the small group of composers along with Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and others to have works performed at the first Other Minds Festival in San Francisco and be in residency at Djerassi Resident program in 1993. In May 2013, Jang performed at The White House Forum on Asian American Pacific Islander Issues in Washington DC hosted by the US Department of the Interior and The White House. The New York Times described Jang's music: "Like the 'Third Stream' composers of the 50’s who married jazz and classical music, Jang honors his two idioms without fully merging them." Jang's awards include the History-Makers Award from the Chinese Historical Society of America and the Mid-Career Visionary Artist Award from the Ford Foundation. He was also the first Conservatory alum to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award from Oberlin College.

Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Masaru Koga was born in Chiba, Japan, and spent his childhood and teenage years in Japan, the U.S. and what was then West Germany. His current and longest place of residence has been the San Francisco Bay Area, where he has been a part of its musical community for the past 15+ years. In all his many and varied artistic pursuits, Masaru's goal is to create music that respects traditions and goes beyond styles and idioms to ultimately help diminish all forms of social boundaries. Masaru has a BA in Improvised Music Studies from San Jose State University, where he intensively studied and explored music traditions of different cultures around the world. He has traveled, recorded, and performed nationally with artists such as Hafez Modirzadeh, Francis Wong, Anthony Brown, Royal Hartigan, John Carlos Perea, Wayne Wallace, Kat Parra, and Fred Ho. He is also the director of SambAsia, an award-winning San Francisco-based community samba school, teaching and performing Brazilian drums. In December 2010, Masaru received "The Latin Jazz Corner Best Of 2010 Awards" in the "Latin Jazz Flautist Of The Year" category.

In addition to celebrating the pioneers of the Asian American Jazz movement, SFFCM will present a number of Bay Area ensembles representing a wide variety of musical genres, including the San Francisco Piano Trio, John Calloway and Flute Odyssey, the Wooden Fish Ensemble, the Del Sol String Quartet, Kitka, Prasant Radhakrishnan's VidyA, Larry Vuckovich's Crosswinds: A Global Jazz Journey, and Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids.

About the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music

The San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM) is a non-­profit organization established in 1998 to promote early music, classical music, new music, jazz and creative music performed by local chamber ensembles. Through performance opportunities, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, business training, career development, grants and other forms of financial support — along with technical assistance in marketing, accounting and administration — SFFCM enables performers, composers and presenters to create first-­rate work while fostering greater access and genuine engagement for their audiences.

SFFCM's Musical Grant Program, currently in its seventh cycle, has granted a total of nearly $520,000 for 187 different projects proposed by Bay Area ensembles, composers and presenters. The grants program has had a tremendous impact for awardees and audiences alike, resulting in a rich variety of commissioned new works, performances, and recordings. The program is funded by Grants for the Arts, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, and the San Francisco Foundation.

Other programs presented by SFFCM include the Legion Listening Series; a series of free, casual performances every Friday evening at the Officers' Club on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco; the Ensemble in Residence Program; and additional community-facing programs through the year.

To learn more about the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, SFMusic Day, or programs and projects presented by the SFFCM, please visit the SFFCM website,

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