Shoji Hano

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Shoji Hano Interview

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

I was living in Kokura, Kyusyu Island and my parents rented some
rooms on the 2nd floor of my house. Incidently, my room was also on
the second floor. I got a drum set from my friend when I was in 15th
grade. One day when I was playing the drums, a neighbor who I'd not
seen for almost 10 years got out from his room and asked me "Do you
play drums?". He then showed me 2 records. One of them was a drum
battle between Max Roach and Buddy Rich, and other one was Caravan
by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.He lent me those 2 albums and
had me choose one of them. I chose "Caravan".The playing of Art Blakey
totally mesmerized me.

I could say the sounds were instinctively into me, not only sounds,
but also how the phrases were constructed. The reason might be
because there are great members playing together with him at that
time. I chose it by my guts. I didn't know anything back then.

"Brown and roach" incorporated
Clifford Brown (Trumpet) Max Roach (Drums)

When I was in high school, I played baseball and other sports
besides playing drums. I listened to bebop on radio and Thelonidus
Monk and Clifford Brown often received airplay. They got me more
interested in Jazz and I started listening to it more often.

I tried copying Max Roach's 32 bars drums solo and listened to my
own version afterwards. But it was totally different (laughter). The
meaning of "Copy" is an issue later on. All players start by
copying, but the real matter is, as a player is copying someone's
style, the player notices playing on his own style. Max Roach and
Art Bleaky were my biggest influences between high school and 20
years of age.


"Thelonidus Monk"
Prestige LP7027 by Art Blakey, Max Roach

I was so impressed when I listened to this album for the first time
on radio. It seemed like he played so effortlessly. His way of
composing and his playing style were all simple. But I'm not bored
of listening to this album after so many years.

For example, Max Roach composes on a phrase basis, so it's easy to
copy, but Monk plays with the timing of every single sound, like a
time lag of a sound. It's not an obvious lag, but I don't know if
it's "Ma" (Adjusting timing and distance, a significant factor of
martial arts). I suppose he knew it instinctively and acquired it.
Sometimes, he suddenly stopped playing the piano and started
dancing. Some people said he was great and some others said he was
terrible. He once stayed away from playing on a stage for a while,
but he's a great person for sure.


"Out of the afternoon"
Roy Haynes Quartet.

Roy Haynes is great drummer without doubt, but he couldn't be at the
top because of Elvin Jones. Elvin and John Coltrane had a tour with
their band and Elvin became sick mid way through. So Roy played
instead of Elvin. The album "My Favorite Sings" was recorded at that
time. The 4 beats was a phrase with a Cymbal legato, but Roy played
with 3 group notes mainly using a Snare and a Bass drum. It was an
innovation of drums. But Roy couldn't play it the way Elvin did.


"Tommy Flanagen :Over"
Tommy Flanagan (Piano)

The drummer of this album was Elvin Jones. He played only with a
brush. The brushwork totally turned over the current trend. I also
played with this record. Only few drummers can play like him as far
as I know. Art Tylor, Feely Joe Jones, great drummers from the 50's
and 60's are good at it though, Elvin's brushwork is the best.


"Last Date"
by Eric Dolphy

This album was recorded in Europe just before Eric passed away. He
used European musicians instead of African American players. The
collaboration of this gig was outstanding. Misja Mengelberg and Han
Bennink tore down the current 4 beats basis. It's a distinctive
European rhythm. Eric Dolphy also played suitably with the flow.


"Out to Lunch"
By Eric Dolphy

It was 77' or 78'. I was living in Kyoto back then. I visited Kaoru
Abe a talented Sax player in Tokyo. Both of us were living low, but
we went out eating with what little money I had, about 1500 yen.
Then we went back to Kaoru's room, he offered me to choose one
record out of his collection. This album was the one I chose.
I liked it because this album was released at the time when Eric's
playing had just changed.


"New York Art Quartet"
Milford Graves (Percussion & Drums)

This album is what I call an evolution of Free Jazz. Milford Graves
came to Japan for the first time around 74' or 75'. The essence of
his playing in this album exactly suited this word, "Ma" that I
mentioned above, Less sounds, playing with only a snare drum. He
changed a trend. But it seems like he doesn't like to play on stage.


"Satch Plays Fats"

A tribute to the Immoral Fats Waller by Louis Armstrong*
Not only this album, I like Luis Armstrong. When I struggled
playing, I played with one of his records. And I found myself
playing with him. The moment doesn't come with adjusting timing or a
metronome by ears. It's not tuned by head. It's tuned by heart, at
least I think so. They might say I've not what it takes, but I knew
a certain feeling made a certain sound from this album. A sound
that you are listening to and a sound that you make sound different.

I like any Louis Armstrong's albums. When I struggled with playing,
I played with one of his records. And I found myself playing with
him. The moment doesn't come with adjusting timing or a metronome by
ear. It's not tuned by head. It's tuned by heart. At least I think
so. They might say I do not have what it takes, but I knew a certain
feeling created a certain sound from this album. A sound that you
are listening to and a sound that you make sound different.

A sound is interesting. When I listened to myself playing for the
first time, it sounded like someone else played. Like I mentioned at
"*Brown and Roach" *that I tried to copy Max Roach's playing, you
know the sounds of a record in your head, but if you record it, you
know the playing sounds different. But at some point, the sounds in
your head and your playing becomes the same. This is important and
sounds easy, but it's actually difficult to reach this level.


"Body Meta"
Ornette Coleman

At the time this album was released, the sounds rapidly shifted to
the use of Electric Instruments. The sounds were more percussion
oriented with electric instruments, maybe around 75'. Miles Davis
started using it earlier than him, I guess. So I wonder what has
changed since 75'. Bebop was born around end of the 40's and early
50's and then Modern Jazz and Free Jazz followed it. Then many
collaborations with other genres were coming up and Improvisation
was born in Europe around the 60's to 70's, but I don’t see much
improvement since the 80's. I don't even know if it's necessary to
change. I have to find a way what I should do in the stream of a era.


Sometimes, I'm tired of being influenced too much by other people.

Just go on your own way no matter what anybody says. No matter when
or where a musician stands on a stage, you are the only one
responsible for the stage. If you aren't confident enough to play
that particular day, you can say, "I won't play today". It's
difficult actually. Most of musicians can't stop playing.

Free Improvisation is easy to start and there is no rule. Although
there is no rule, there is a way to do it. Important thing is how
much you can be tense and connect to the audience and grasp the
ambient aspects as much as you can. There are many silent
assumptions behind like what you don't want to let them do in the
"space". "A space" means a comprehensive environment including the
audience, players and a location. But blunt players dare to break
this. They think they can do whatever they want.

"Free" doesn't mean "Chaotic". No matter what kind of playing, solo
or other playing styles, there is "A Space”. The quality depends on
how much you can feel it. Most players aren't sensitive enough. If
you are on a stage, you have to be 20 times more sensitive than
other players.

Sounds are not necessarily. I don't want to play loud, rather reduce
sounds but I'm not good enough to do it so the sounds are
necessarily for now, for my expression. I have my own assignments.
Each rhythm has a meaning. Rhythm doesn't mean only some certain
beats. Even it seems irregular series of sounds, there is a rhythm
in big flow. They are like breathing, air or winds.

Ultimately, I don't need sounds. In the reality, I don't want to
play loud. I’d rather reduce the sounds but I'm not good enough to
do it so the sounds are necessarily for my expressions now. I have
my own assignments. Each rhythm has a meaning. Rhythm doesn't mean
only certain beats. Even it seems like an irregular series of
sounds, there is a rhythm in a big flow. They are like breathing,
air or winds.


Why haven’t you hit the road recently on a tour even though you did
many tours in the past?

I used to want to play at different locations, in front of different
audiences with different players as much as I can. After I did it
full tilt for years, I was convinced that it’s all the same wherever
I play. I'm about to reach another stage and my rhythm is changing
differently now.

I believe that drums itself can improve. I want to overturn the
fixed image of drums and even what I've done so far. My sounds
consisted of something cultivated in the past. So how do you
eliminate it unconsciously is the point. A consciously attempted
sound is not lively.

I think it's possible if I can have 3 or 4 different state of minds
at the same time in my head. It's like a part of me is playing, and
another part of me thinks, "I can do it better" and the 3rd part of
me thinks how to lead myself to the next level from where I am now.
But if I am conscious the 3 of minds, it's already not what I want
to be. My play and sounds are all based on my cultivation. It's not
fun anymore for me. I want to go further. But that's the way it is.
So it's my own assignment on how I can change it.

I don't care if people praise me like "Wow, you are great!" or
something. I've been drumming for 30 years. Playing drums is nothing
special for me, you know. I devote my whole my body and soul to this
battle between me and myself about how far I can go. I started Jazz
drumming when I was 19 years old, but I know Japanese can't do
authentic Jazz. We can't make sounds like the African Americans do,
with their *full bodied* sounds.


What's the "comfortable sounds"?

Comfortable sounds are different for everyone. An attack is
important though, a late attack seems like "it doesn't really come
into me". But a quick attack goes away faster so I feel the sound
doesn't remain within my sensitivity. I think the truth may exist in
inspiration or the sensitivity that human beings essentially have. I
may be from an old generation though. New generations may not agree
with it.

I've not lived for others expectations. My mission is how I can go
further with drumming and I live for seeking a truth of a life. But
it doesn't mean I'm sticking with myself, my "ego". We are all
living and have a soul. We are all same. I wonder why we are here,
live and die. Are we living just to die? I believe that we can
connect through the resonance of soul. Now I'm fooling around a
little though. (Laughter). We tend to choose the easier way, you
know. I may change my mind when I face a tough situation again
though. I'm an asshole. I'm no big deal.

You shouldn't think you can do something. When you realize how
useless you are, something actually starts. I may be a little bit
better at playing drums, but that's pretty much it. I know much more
things that I can't do. I was so frustrated when I was playing for a
photo session today. Why am I'm plying this rhythm now? I actually
want to play this way, I'll try to change it, oh, it's different
again, like that.

I want to play snare drum, high-hat and bass drum with all subtle
different timings but still my consciousness are on 3 of them
perfectly. It's not a sequence or a routine that comes from
practice. I want to be able to control them all at exactly the same
time in a sec. I think it's possible, but I've not been able to
deliver my consciousness all equally. Only few people may understand
what I'm trying to do, but I know there are, even if they are few.
So I can't do it halfway. I always fully concentrate on it and
strain myself to the maximum.

I want to get away from beats. But I don't want to make it a classic
music or even improvisation. I want to play as I did at the photo
shooting today. I want to change the concept of drums. I want to do
something that nobody has done. I think I'm coming close, but I
believe that I can still go further. I don't know if I could make
it before I die, I wouldn't know forever, I have a clue that might
be close to it.
To me, Jazz means seeking where my sounds go. But I'm not really
sure if it still can be called aJazz. It's just a name.

Words aren't important. Important thing is that you feel or sense
what’s between concentration and relaxation.