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Percussion Marvel Nakatani Returns to Minnesota: At the Icehouse, September 25

TCJF Twin Cities


Tatsuya Nakatani © Andrea Canter

© Andrea Canter

“…fully charged with a visceral intensity that can captivate a true listener….. The music is clear…It will purify any space. ” Eric Zinman, Improvisor Magazine

“Over the past decade, my sound has evolved by viewing and reforming music from different angles. I have gradually developed my own way of constructing sound; my sound is the storyteller of my life.”– Tatsuya Nakatani


Nakatani © Andrea Canter

Twin Cities’ fans of avant garde percussion, as well as anyone interested in experimental music, have an exciting opportunity to hear and watch modern percussion master Tatsuya Nakatani  when he returns to the Twin Cities to perform at the Icehouse on Monday, September 25, part of JT’s Jazz Implosion. Nakatani is a mystic of percussion — he’s not only a master of the standard trapset, but a genie who summons other worlds from a formidable arsenal of intended and unintended “instruments” – gongs, cymbals, sticks, mallets, bowls, boxes, bows – pretty much anything one can hold and hit, rub or scrape. His organic creations infuse jazz, rock and noise with the space and beauty of traditional Japanese folk music. At the Icehouse, Nakatani will perform the first set solo, and a second set in collaboration with Nathan Hanson (saxophones), Noah Ophoven-Baldwin (trumpet), and Chris Bates (bass).

Nakatani © Andrea Canter

Originally from Osaka, Japan where he started on drumset as a teenager, Tatsuya Nakatani has released over 60 recordings, tours internationally, and collaborates with artists throughout the world.  In addition to his career as solo and ensemble performer, Nakatani is a sound designer for film and television, a teacher of master classes, and head of H & H Production, an independent record label and studio in Easton, PA. He improvised a music score for the Smithsonian in conjunction with the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibition, and has performed at the Kennedy Center and the Chicago Cultural Center. His latest project is the Nakatani Gong Orchestra, which builds community ensembles performing on multiple bowed gongs under his direction, as recently presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

On his website, Nakatani describes his approach to his music. “I make sound by controlling MA at the appropriate moment. MA is a Japanese word meaning space, distance or silence. I have found that MA complements sound itself. I combine the use of manufactured and homemade instruments in my work. Those instruments are drums, large hand-hammered Chinese gongs, Japanese Buddhist bowls, specially carved sticks, and occasionally kitchen tools. I hand-make hardwood bows to bow gongs and cymbals. Bowing creates a long sustained sound in percussion, making an identifiable note, timbre, and texture. All of these instruments are carefully tuned and matched in sound depth to balance my family of percussion instruments.”

Nakatani © Andrea Canter

This evening at the Icehouse marks Nakatani’s fifth visit to the Twin Cities, appearing with Milo Fine at Art of This gallery (2009), at Rogue Buddha Gallery in 2010, in 2013 at the Black Dog, and a year ago at Studio Z. When listening to tracks from his solo percussion CD Primal Communication, one is struck by a wild array of scrapes, screeches, groans, scratches, thuds, creaks, whines….sounds and rhythms that emulate horns, strings, human voices, inhuman soundscapes. How are the sounds produced? Takatani’s creations demand visual access—he must be appreciated live.

Nakatani © Andrea Canter

My first live encounter with Nakatani was at the Rogue Buddha Gallery in northeast Minneapolis, a long narrow space that easily accommodated a three-sided array of gongs. In solo, Nakatani began at one end and gonged around the perimeter and back, like a thunderstorm that began with a low rumble, reached a peak of intensity in a shower of rain, and receded into mist.  At the Black Dog a few years later, however, space was limited to a small square stage, and Nakatani similarly limited his playground to one middle-size gong hanging by the trapset, accompanied by a toybox filled with bowls, blocks, cymbals and bows. (He brings along more bows than a concert violinist. And he uses them all.)  Most fascinating is the range of pitches lurking within the thin metal of the gong, as struck by a mallet or set into imperceptible vibration by a bow sliding across its edge.

Appreciate a wild world of sound that must be seen as well as heard, Monday, September 25 at 9:30 pm at the Icehouse.


The Icehouse is located at 2528 Nicollet Ave South in Minneapolis; Tickets $12; 21+