What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Hideaki Tokunaga

I caught Hideaki Tokunaga several weeks ago at the Baked Potato jazz club here in LA playing with Tony DoRosario and John Pisano. Hideaki Tokunaga has a captivating style and a sweet, warm tone, playing wonderfully fluid melody lines using his thumb instead of a pick.

Overall, I was stuck by the expressive nature of his playing and enjoyed listening to him immensely. Following is some history on Hideaki...

From his Online Bio:

Born in Osaka Japan, the guitarist, Hideaki Tokunaga came to the United States in 1985 and settled in New York, playing with an organization called Music Under New York (MUNY), which arranged for musicians to play in subways. In 1990 he moved to Southern California and started attending Calfornia Institute of the Arts through the Charlie Mingus Scholarship Program. In 1998 he graduated from CalArts with his Master's Degree.

During his school years the 18th Annual Down Beat Magazine Student Music Awards gave one of three Best USA Jazz Instrumental Soloist-College Awards to Hideaki Tokunaga. "The Awards," explains CalArts Jazz Program director, pianist David Roitstein, "bring a lot of competition. Students in high schools, colleges and universities all over the world submit their work and pieces are judged by internationally known musicians who know what they are listening to. There is a high level of competition and winning an award is a big honor."

After receiving this award, Tokunaga contracted with Moo/MIDI Records. His debut cd "The Wind Told Me" was released in 1997 and the second album "Midnight Rainbow" was released in 1998. On "Midnight Rainbow" the core band features the Hammond B3 playing of Greg Kustin and the drums of legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins. This trio is augmented by a string quartet as they swing through a program of Hideaki's own music and eclectic jazz standards.

Jazz Program founder, bassist Charlie Haden said " Some people think that only musicians who grew up in this country can play jazz. I totally disagree with it. Listen to how Django Reinhardt used to improvise on his guitar. He really digged jazz theory. And Hideaki is another example, if I close my eyes to listen to how he plays bebop, I would think he was from Brooklyn." As a matter fact, he lived in Brooklyn when he met his wife, and followed her to Los Angeles.

His warm, beautiful, solid and grooving guitar sound has been capturing the hearts of every Jazz fan. If you need more information about Hideaki Tokunaga, visit his website at: http://www.japaneseguitarist.com/.

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot in Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc plays Heritage guitars and endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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