Kei Akagi Trio plays jazz in McKinney Theatre

Kei Akagi, leader of the Kei Akagi Trio (Bob Barry Photography)

Japanese jazz pianist Kei Akagi and his trio joined Saddleback College in McKinney Theatre Monday night to put on a performance comprised of jazz standards and original material

Japanese jazz pianist Kei Akagi performed Monday night along with his trio consisting of bassist Shunya Wakai, and drummer Tamaya Honda. 

The Tokyo Trio’s performance lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. The first hour contained original material written by Kei Akagi such as the songs “The Dog and the Snake” and “Twin Lakes,” along with a cover of the jazz standard “Nefertiti” written by Wayne Shorter.

The trio ended their night with a free-jazz blend of tracks from Akagi’s album “Aqua Puzzle.” It was a loud and atonal ending to a performance that shifted between soft, slow, melodic numbers and fast free improvisation. 

“This last song is a compilation of a few pieces off of our album ‘Aqua Puzzle.’ My friend played Bamboo flute it and we attempted to bring together traditional Japanese folk music with modern jazz music and improvisation,” said pianist Kei Akagi, leader of the trio. 

After the show Akagi and his trio sold CDs of their music, including “Contrast & Form” which was released in 2016, and their most recent album “Aqua Puzzle.”

“This is the first performance of a weeklong tour we’re doing. We’ve been looking forward to performing for quite a while, We have a few of our CDs for sale along the way, which contain our own original material along with a few CDs recorded by our drummer Tamaya Honda’s trio,” said Kei Akagi after the show.

“I enjoyed Akagi’s performance tonight. He had me hooked. Him and his band were really tight together, and it’s really fun to watch when they’re all on the same page and have great chemistry,” said Saddleback student James Moscoso. “Some of the performance was a break from what I usually listen to, like the last song, but I loved it all.”

Key Akagi’s performance allowed students to see a world renowned jazz pianist and composer perform. The event program explained his expertise, “Pianist and composer Kei Akagi has been a mainstay of the international jazz world for over three decades. Perhaps best known for his work as a member of the Miles Davis band in the late 1980’s, his career also includes extended associations with major figures such as Stanley Turrentine, James Newton, Joe Farrell, Al DiMeola, and Airto Moreira.” 

“I’m fortunate to have so many opportunities to watch and learn from great musicians. I think it’s an important part of our education as students of music and I take something away from each concert. I love Miles Davis and grew up listening to his music, so to be able to see someone who has performed with him play at my own school is cool to me,” said Saddleback music student Nick Shrestha.

Kei Akagi was pleased to see some of his colleagues and students in the crowd while he performed.

It was great to see some of my friends and colleagues in the crowd, as well as students. I hope everyone enjoyed themself and took something away from our performance,” said Kei Akagi.

Monday night marked the second jazz show scheduled for the Spring 2019 semester — the first being the faculty jazz concert which took place on January 28. There are several more jazz performances and workshops scheduled for the remainder of the Spring semester, the next being Jazz Day with Grammy award winning composer and trumpeter John Daversa which will take place in McKinney Theatre on Saturday February 23.