October will bring guest performers to the Central Washington University both to work with students and perform for the public.

The Central Washington University Music Department Jazz Studies Area is presenting The East-West Jazz Alliance at 8 p.m., Oct. 17 in the Music Building Concert Hall, according to a news release from CWU.

This is the second visit of this ensemble, the first being a number of years ago, which was hailed by students and community as one of the best concerts of the year. Jay Thomas, a Seattle native and acclaimed jazz multi-instrumentalist is responsible for bringing this group together for a visit to CWU, among many other venues in the Northwest. Comprised of personnel from Japan and the United States, their name is a moniker for bringing together both sides of the Pacific ocean in the name of jazz. Thomas makes yearly sojourns to Japan to play with a number of these players and now it will be their turn to perform in his homeland.

Kohama Yasuhiro (saxophone) is the leader of East West Jazz Alliance, originally hailing from Hiroshima but now based out of Nagoya, Japan. Kohama studied from jazz super stars Barry Harris and Jimmy Heath and has been running a jazz orchestra in Japan for the past thirty years. Jay Thomas says he has been playing with Kohama for 22 years.

“He changed my life in so many ways. He introduced me to the joys of being part of a group”, said Thomas.

Atsushi Ikeda (saxophone) is at the apex of the Tokyo scene appearing in many groups including CUG and No Name Horses run by Mokoto Ozone. Daisuke Kurata is a first call drummer in Japan who used to live in New York, recorded with Grady Tate, playing often at many Manhattan night spots. Maya Hatch is a vocalist from Seattle who now resides in Japan. She has deep roots in the Northwest having graduated from Roosevelt High School (Seattle) and went on to the New School in NYC. Her mother is Japanese, her father Caucasian, and she speaks fluent Nihongo.

Phil Sparks covers the bass chair for the group and is a first-call player in Seattle, currently playing with Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Seattle’s premier big band. The “ kid “ in the band is Yuuki Hirate, 25 years old and lives in Japan.

About Yuuki, Jay Thomas has great story to tell. “A summer ago I had him perform at Tula’s Jazz Club in Seattle. Yuuki was amazing everyone with his chops and taste and command of the jazz language. At one point in the evening he played his trumpet with his right hand and played unison lines with his left hand on piano. the people who were already amazed were on the floor after that!”

“We are super-excited to have this amazing group of players back on campus,” said Chris Bruya, CWU’s Director of Jazz Studies. “They will present a couple of clinics for students during the day and then tear the roof off the Concert Hall that night.”


The Aspen String Trio is performing at 7 p.m., Oct. 15 in the Music Building Concert Hall.

The Aspen String Trio is one of the rare professional string trios performing and touring today. Engagements last season included residencies and performances on the Rutenberg Series (Tampa), The Artist’s Series (Tallahassee), and the Beaux Arts Chamber Music Series (Naples), as well as concerts for the Ashville Chamber Music Series, Chamber Music Kelowna (B.C.), the Los Angeles Music Guild, Barge Music (New York), and the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.).


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