Blue notes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am


It has been more than three years since Japanese jazz trumpet player Shunzo Ohno last performed in Hong Kong, and it is a pleasure to announce his return for a single concert at City Hall.

As last time, Ohno will be joined by friends Eugene Pao on guitar and Ted Lo on keyboards. Regular collaborators and countrymen Shinichi Sato and Taro Koyama will play bass and drums respectively.

Ohno, 63, is one of a small number of Japanese trumpet stars to have established a truly international reputation.

Although Ohno started out on trombone he found his true instrumental voice when he switched to trumpet at the age of 17. He made his reputation in Japan in the early 1970s as a member of the George Otsuka Quartet, and had already recorded Falter Out, his debut as a leader, when in 1973 drummer and bandleader Art Blakey invited him to New York to join The Jazz Messengers. After a stint with Blakey he worked with Roy Haynes and Norman Connors, before joining Cubano jazz band leader Machito Grillo, appearing on the Grammy-winning Machito and His Salsa Big Band, recorded in 1982.

Next stop, the Gil Evans Orchestra, which he joined in 1983, and with which he remained until Evans' death in 1988. While with the band he appeared on Bud and Bird, which won a Grammy in 1986.

The 1980s also found him working with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell and the Buster Williams Quintet, associations which continued into the 1990s. His playing career was interrupted in 1989 when he sustained serious injuries to his teeth and lips in a car accident, and again in the mid-1990s while he battled throat cancer. Both times he came back stronger than ever.

In 2002 the Universal Jazz Coalition and the New York Jazz Centre presented him with the Asian American Jazz Connection Award, and a television documentary has been made about his remarkable life.

Ohno appears at City Hall on November 6 at 8pm. Tickets are HK$400, $300 and $250, and are available from Urbtix and all Tom Lee Music shops. Further information at

Take Three

Three noteworthy albums featuring the trumpet of Shunzo Ohno.

Falter Out (1972, Victor): There is nothing faltering about this strong leader's debut, featuring an all Japanese quartet with Ohno's trumpet as the sole horn.

Manhattan Blue (1986, Pro Jazz): Ohno, whose name is spelled O'no here, is in fine form with impressive company, including pianist Kenny Kirkland, guitarist Mike Stern and bassist Darryl Jones.

Sakura (2008, Eastwind): Ohno doubles on trumpet and flugelhorn on familiar tunes ranging from Sting's Fields of Gold to Scarborough Fair and Besame Mucho.