TRUMPETER AND COMPOSER JUN IIDA RELEASES DEBUT ALBUM REFLECTING HIS PERIPATETIC LIFE, UNIQUE MUSICAL INFLUENCES EVERGREEN
Coming January 19, 2024 on Origin Records (Orginarts.com)
JUN IIDA’s (Joon Ee-da) debut CD, EVERGREEN, is a showcase for his modern, edgy originals and imaginative re-workings of other compositions off the beaten path. The trumpet and flugelhorn player has lived in Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, and recently relocated to New York City. Iida has internalized the different styles of music from each region, making his approach to composing and arranging appealing and unexpected with his subtle amalgamation of contemporary jazz, blues, pop, hip-hop, soul, and classical music.
Iida also absorbed music from his Japanese heritage. His mother, a semi-professional koto (Japanese harp) player, had a profound influence on his love of music. He was born in St. Louis, where he spent the first ten years of his life. Iida says, “My mother was always playing music around the house. She loved all types of music, especially classical, and I spent my formative years listening to Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn. My parents immigrated here from Japan, and my mother wanted to make sure we didn’t lose our culture and language, so she also taught us Japanese folk and children’s songs. But I also listened to jazz, blues, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, and hip-hop, which were all prevalent in St. Louis when I was very young.”
Iida began studying the piano when he was five years old and subsequently started playing the trumpet when he was nine after listening to his mother’s Louis Armstrong album, Hello Dolly! When he was 10 years old, his family moved to Pittsburgh, which had its own thriving jazz culture as well as many iconic clubs that featured alternative rock and hip-hop. Although Iida was mainly attracted to jazz, his interests encompassed a wide range of styles, and he performed in several classical orchestras and wind ensembles throughout his high school and college years.
Iida studied classical music at the Cleveland Institute of Music and jazz at Case Western Reserve University, where he also studied aerospace engineering. After graduating, Iida moved to Los Angeles in 2015 for an engineering job while actively pursuing his music. Los Angeles is home to some of the finest jazz musicians in the country, and Iida started to hone his chops performing at several notable jazz clubs, theaters, and festivals as a sideman and with his own sextet. One of the most important connections he made while living in Los Angeles was with JOSH NELSON, the esteemed pianist and arranger who was a big influence on Iida’s development as a jazz artist.
Iida had made so many friends in L.A. that he decided to come down from Seattle to record EVERGREEN at a popular Glendale studio. Nelson, who plays piano and co-produced the album, was a major consideration for his decision. Also joining Iida are L.A.-based musicians MASAMI KUROKI (guitar) and JONATHAN RICHARDS (bass). Seattle-based drummer XAVIER LECOUTURIER and acclaimed New York vocalist AUBREY JOHNSON are also on the album.
Iida had a unique idea for the vocals on EVERGREEN, as he wanted them to fill the role of a second horn. He met Johnson in Seattle at a gig and was very impressed with her vocal abilities. She vocalizes on all the compositions and sings Japanese lyrics convincingly on two songs.
“Akatombo,” (Red Dragonfly) is a popular song that Iida’s mother taught him. The nostalgic tune is written in the voice of someone recalling being carried on the back of his caretaker when he was just an infant. Iida’s emotive trumpet solo and Johnson’s lilting voice are highlights. “Shiki No Uta” (Song of the Seasons) is a Japanese pop tune made popular by experimental record producer Nujabes. The melancholy tune about a lover who comes in and out of the singer’s life features Johnson tripling her vocals. The song has a distinctly Japanese melody that Iida arranged in a jazz style with hints of hip-hop.
“Gooey Butter Cake” is an Iida original. The straight-ahead, upbeat, toe-tapping composition pays homage to a sweet treat that is popular in St. Louis. Iida chose to open the album with this song since his musical journey began in St. Louis. The other Iida originals include “Evergreen,” the title track. The composition is an homage to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. “Forgotten Memories” deals with the loss of memories as one ages and finding acceptance through new experiences.
Iida wrote “My Anguish in Solidarity” as a reaction to the incidences of police violence against Black Americans. The composition is written almost as a sonata with sections that employ odd meters, with Nelson on piano and Fender Rhodes. “Song for Luke” is a sad ballad that Iida wrote for a friend who passed away at a young age from brain cancer. Johnson captures the melancholic nature fof the song with her breathy, gentle vocals. Iida used shifting tone centers and odd meters to capture the mellow time between the heat and passions of summer and the cold and dark of winter in “Holding on to Autumn.”
Iida also re-imagines Sonny Rollins’ and Elmo Hope’s “Bellarosa” with Johnson doubling with Iida on the melody. “Love Theme from Spartacus,” the theme song from the movie, features a charming and disarming duet by Iida and Nelson.
EVERGREEN is a unique modern jazz album that sounds like no other. Although his Japanese heritage shines through on many tunes, as does his eclectic musical tastes and influences, Iida is firmly rooted in the jazz idiom. With its outstanding musicianship and fresh, progressive arrangements, EVERGREEN is a stellar debut for composer and trumpeter Jun Iida.
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EVERGREEN is set for release on January 19, 2024 on Origin Records and will be available at Originarts.com and all streaming platforms.