indigo jam unit may be Japan’s most prolific jazz performance group. They are certainly the hardest working! In addition to making one or two records every year and touring extensively, they reserve every June for a unique ‘Grand Piano’ tour of premier jazz clubs in Japan. Only the very best rooms with the very best Yamaha or Steinway pianos will do.
indigo jam unit is a unique quartet, in that its instrumentation is comprised of piano, acoustic bass, and two drummers/percussionists. Pianist Yoshichika Tarue carries the bulk of the harmonic content, so very good pianos in the best sounding clubs are critical. This year’s ‘Grand Piano’ tour includes Billboard LIVE in Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya Blue Note, and Rooms in Fukuoka.
In addition to considerable work to find the finest venues with the superior pianos, the indigo jam unit also put great effort into finding the best piano mics. The band tried out a matched-pair of Audix SCX25A’s at four of the premier music spots in Japan,” explains Mikael Makino of Basis Records.
“At the first show at the Osaka Billboard the engineer raised the piano mic faders during set-up and all the staff was just completely blown away. Instantly. We’ve heard and used this particular piano on numerous occasions, but this is the first time we’ve heard a mic that delivers a sound that natural.”
“We find that the Audix mics capture instruments the way our ears hear them,” explains Basis Records owner and producer Kenichi Tateiwa. “indigo jam unit only records live takes in the studio – no overdubbing, no post-editing. That’s the one thing we want a mic to be able to deliver; the true sound. And it must perform just as well live.”
Tateiwa has been intimately involved in the development of the indigo jam unit since the band formed in 2005; having produced all of their seven original albums and three cover albums. He takes a very hands-on approach to both their recorded and live sound; down to the smallest details. “For live performance, Tateiwa likes having the piano lid open, but praises the option to be able to close it on very short notice should it be needed,” continues Makino. “Being a twin-drum band, there’s no end to the leakage with an open lid set up. The Audix SCX25A’s give him options without compromise.”
Pianist Yoshichika Tarue was really surprised by how clear the piano sounded in his monitors and how it cut through the monitor mix. FOH engineer Hironobu Hara added, “The Audix SCX25A sound is just very, very natural. It sounds like the real instrument.” They continue, “When the sound is this natural, it contributes not only to a better sound but also to better performance. And that’s huge; really huge.” In addition to SCX25A’s for the grand piano, the band uses Audix D6’s for kick drums, D4’s for snares, and i5’s for percussion.
indigo jam unit is a collaboration of pianist Tarue, up-right bassist Katsuhiko Sasai, drummer Takehiro Shimizu and percussionist/drummer Isao Wasano; all under the guidance of producer Tateiwa. Unique for a jazz quartet, this instrumentation frames the band’s passion for classical, trad-jazz, and Latin music with a combination of a free-flowing piano over a driving rhythm section of bass and double percussion. A mix this unique allows them to cross borders into main-stream genres and audiences.
“The band does three main tours and records one or two albums every year; one original album and then a cover album,” explains Makino. “After album release in December, an all-Japan tour starts every January and lasts until mid-March. The ‘Grand Piano’ tour is in June, and then everyone is gathered for recording in August-September”.
The latest album release from the indigo jam unit last December, “Independent” is available on iTunes. All ten albums, as well as tour dates, can be found at http://www.basisrecords.com/indigo/ and at http://www.facebook.com/indigojamunit.