Optician Hʼs Grease Jazz plays “Mack the Knife”

Optician Hʼs Grease Jazz plays "Mack the Knife"

Optician Hʼs Grease Jazz are

Gentle Kubota (ジェントル久保田) : Trombone

Gentle Kubota Trombone

As a trombone player, coming from a rare background with no musical experience until entering university……

Hirofumi Asaba (浅葉裕文) : Trombone

Hirofumi Asaba Guitar

As a jazz guitarist known for his upbeat swinging play, he traveled the world in his early 20’s to perfect……

Atsuki Takizawa (たきざわあつき) : Drums

Atsuki Takizawa Drums

Throughout his career, his free drumming style has helped him earn the trust of many musicians……

Gentle Kubota Trombone

As a trombone player, coming from a rare background with no musical experience until entering university, he became the frontman of the Gentle Forest Jazz Band, formed in 2005. In 2007, he was invited by his friend, Kenta HAMANO, to join the ZAINICHI FUNK. Asides from playing for both bands, his unique character has gained attraction and has also starred in TV commercials, programs and music videos.

Hirofumi Asaba Guitar

As a jazz guitarist known for his upbeat swinging play, he traveled the world in his early 20’s to perfect his craft while playing jam sessions with regional musicians. After returning to Japan, he studied under jazz guitarist Yoshiaki Okayasu. Since then he has released 3 albums and performed at jazz festivals in America and Taiwan for which he has received worldwide acclaim.

Atsuki Takizawa Drums

Throughout his career, his free drumming style has helped him earn the trust of many musicians. Starting the drums as a child, he went on to study ensemble basics at the Koyo Conservatory of Music of the Berklee International Network after graduating high school. Then, during his year studying in Los Angeles, he fell in love with swing jazz. Since returning to Japan, he has extensively worked and collaborated with artists of various genres.


Gentle Kubota

with Gentle Kubota

How did you first get into music and instruments?
I was a late to get into music, I think I was 22-23 years old then. One day I was looking through my VHS collection and I started watching a 30th anniversary live concert of rock musician, Kiyoshi Imawano. Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra’s sub unit, Ska Para Bones was performing in the clip. I was amazed by the group’s popular trombone player, Masahiko Kitahara’s performance. That’s how I started playing.
So did you naturally gravitate towards jazz from there?
Actually I entered university later than everyone else at 22, after going through multiple jobs. During the campus’ freshman welcome party, a big-band jazz interest group did a demo performance. I saw there was a trombone player so I signed up for the group, determined to play that instrument. Obviously, I started out without even knowing what genre it exactly was.
Hirofumi Asaba

with Hirofumi Asaba

How about yourself, Mr. Asaba?
I started the guitar together with a friend from school when I was 14 or 15. At first I was into punk music but as I dug deeper, I go into the Stray Cats and Brian Setzer. Learning about their origins, I got into rock, R&B, blues too. After I started traveling around, I stayed in New Orleans for a month when I was 23 years old.
So basically, you were a wayfaring guitar player in New Orleans?
Yes. Thinking back now, it was a gutsy move considering I couldn’t play well. [laughs] The whole town was filled with music and it was such an amazing place. It was an incredible experience which led me to decide to become a pro musician. I came back to Japan and studied under jazz guitarist, Yoshiaki Okayasu while working part time at a jazz bar.
Atsuki Takizawa

with Atsuki Takizawa

How about you, Mr. Takizawa? How did you start playing?
I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade of elementary school. My older brother was taking guitar classes where they also had a drum class. That’s how I started attending drum lessons. After that, I played for a band and then I entered a music school. At the beginning of all of that, I did melodic hardcore punk like Hi-Standard.
How did you get into jazz after that?
I was around 24. It had been a year since I moved to Los Angeles. I could say my life changed after seeing a swing jazz drummer play there. Before that, my image of jazz was something of a chic and mature mood, so was astonished to see the crowd dancing to swing jazz. It was so cool and I felt that there was this dynamic feel to it. That’s how I seriously go into it.
All Member

with All Member

Given each of your unique backgrounds, how to do see one another as jazz players?
Gentle Kubota (G): For instance, if each of our interest areas were spheres as in a diagram, we all have a lot of overlapping areas. Including things like, what we want to express through jazz, our level of awareness in issues as well as performance, as well as our sense of time and history and level of understanding. It’s this sensation of focusing on similar areas without even discussing them beforehand.
Atsuki Takizawa (T): Both of them are not only players but also band leaders. [Next Page]
As Mr. Gentle is the frontman of his band and Mr. Asaba plays as a trio and quartet, they have a clear image of what they want and what kind of sound they want to create. That’s why I enjoy drumming in the back. It’s really interesting to me.
Hirofumi Asaba (A): Although this is my first time to play with them both, I had listened to their music from even before this project. They both have really great taste and I could see their born entertainer sides.
Asides from playing jazz, the three of you regularly shop at Hakusan Megane. How did all of you start wearing Hakusan Megane?
G :I had been looking forever for a perfect shaped pair of glasses. Then one day when I met actor Hideaki “Tackey” Takizawa and I asked about his glasses. “I like that shape, where did you get it?” and he told me they were from Hakusan Megane. Needless to say, I went to the shop the next day. [laughs]
So that was when you finally found your ideal glasses.
G :Exactly. I finally found one that fits me perfectly.
How about you two, Mr. Takizawa & Mr. Asaba? What made you start wearing Hakusan Megane?
T :Mr. Asaba and I became fans since we both went shopping together. [laughs]
A :That’s right, we made a purchase together. [laughs]
T :My friend who’s really into fashion told me “For glasses, HAKUSAN MEGANE is the place to go”. I tagged along Mr. Asaba for his glasses shopping and I didn’t plan on buying one at first but that changed after trying on a few. I bought a pair on the spot. Since then, I always wear one when I perform on stage. One time, I lost a pair so I had to play without glasses. Someone told me I look less of myself without them. [laughs]
So the glasses became sort of your trademark. [laughs]
T :Yes, they were like “You looked really sleepy there”. [laughs] I have kid-like features so the glasses add a good edge to my look which is great.
I see. Moving on to the final question, how was sessioning “Mack the Knife” for all of you?
G :I was confident we’d be fine the moment we hit our first chord.[Next Page]
T :I had previously played with each of them in separate bands so when I heard we were going to play together, I knew I had nothing to worry about. I genuinely enjoyed all of us playing.
A :We made it in one take. I also thought I could copy off of the session and add a similar tasteful touch when I play with my own band. [laughs] If we could do this again I’d definitely have a lot of fun.
Well I hope this could become a ground for new live performances and pieces. Before we end, could you each tell us about your upcoming activities?
G :My continued goal is to keep performing with my band, the Gentle Forest Jazz Band, so that everyone gets to see and enjoy jazz more.
T :As i'm hitting 30 this year, im making a lot of changes to my life. Just a while back I had a chance play as a band leader which is new because I was always passively waiting to get invited to play and my performances were based off that. This year I’m determined to proactively share more.
A :Regardless of my rare guitar playing style, swing is something which is definitely enjoyable and cool. Now, with social media allowing people around the world to connect, my goal is to deliver and communicate to the world what my own definition of what cool is.

Optician Hʼs Grease Jazz plays “Mack the Knife”

Optician Hʼs Grease Jazz
  • photo: Mitsuo Shindo
  • text: Jun Nakazawa
  • translate: Koharu Tada