I had such a wonderful trip in Asia this summer that I don’t even know where to start.
But first I should explain everything and thank everyone who set this tour up.
This August 2018, I played in three Asian countries (India, Japan and China, in that order), two of them for the first time. I also spent a few days in Bangkok, Thailand during the off-days.
The India solo piano show was part of the International Autism Conference in Trivandrum, Kerala (on the very southern tip of the country), organized by CADRRE, the Autism Center. The Japan tour dates were all in Kobe, and that was my third time playing in that city with bassist friend Shota Ishikawa. And the China tour dates were all quartet performances, with a rising star alto saxophonist in Shanghai named Shihai Li.
This was the longest trip I had ever done, and even though I was totally exhausted by the end thanks to all of the flights, it was absolutely worth it.
In case you were wondering what the longest leg of the journey was, it was actually the first one – Boston to Dubai to Trivandrum (fun fact: the full name is Thiruvananthapuram).
In India, one of the most beautiful areas was the Kovalam beach, which is located outside Trivandrum in Kerala. This was my first time in India and my first time seeing the Indian Ocean. And the weather was very pleasant and cool due to the ocean climate and the humidity of the rainy season. The food is very fresh, with lots of fish curries and various types of bananas.
Then, in Thailand, I was able to catch up to several friends in Bangkok and sit in a couple of times at the famous Saxophone Jazz Club. Bangkok is a very fast-growing and cosmopolitan city, with lots of gorgeous temples (such as the Grand Palace) and a great variety of restaurants with very large menus.
In Japan, I got to visit my friend Shota Ishikawa’s neighborhood (Maiko, in west Kobe) for the first time, playing a solo show there at Kantokotoro. This hidden jazz club is located close to the top of a circle of hills, with views of the ocean and of the world’s longest suspension bridge. The next day, Shota and I played two gigs with two trios at Bar Request (where we recorded a live duet album three years prior). The other members of the trios were vocalist Mariko Yoshida and drummer Hiromasa Sadaoka.
Finally, in China, I touched down in Shanghai and played at three of China’s most renowned jazz clubs – Shanghai’s JZ Club, Beijing’s Blue Note, and Zhengzhou’s MJ Club. These were with a quartet with saxophonist (and New England Conservatory alum) Shihai Li, bassist Danny Zanker (an American living in Shanghai), and drummer Xiaolun (Scott) Xue.
The sheer size and beautiful landscapes of China are apparent right from the start – and nowadays you can see them from the 200 mph high speed trains that go all over the country. I saw many landmarks in China with some friends, including Tiananmen Square, Jingshan Park, and the 2,000 foot tall Shanghai Tower.
I have to thank Lakshmi Raghu, G. Vijaya Raghavan, Shihai Li, the Blue Note Beijing, Shota Ishikawa, Dai Murata, and all my friends in Bangkok for making these international trips so amazing.
Until next time – thank you Asia!
Beach in India
Grand Palace, Bangkok
View of Kobe from the hilltop
JW Marriott hotel building, Zhengzhou, China (the MJ Club, where we played, is in this building)
View from the Shanghai Tower
View of the Forbidden City, Beijing
Shota Ishikawa, Matt Savage, Hiromasa Sadaoka
Dai Murata, Matt Savage