It is obvious from the first notes he plays on
ìTwentieth Century Bebop,î the opening selection on
his debut CD Deserted Island, that altoist Naoki Iwane
is a highly original and major new voice on his
instrument. While most young players sound like their
main influences on their early releases, Naoki
displays a very individual voice from the start, not
only as an improviser but as a composer. He does not
sound like anyone else.
Born and raised in Okayama, Japan, Naoki remembers,
ìEarly on I heard classical music. I was enrolled in
the Kawai Music School when I was four years old so I
could be introduced to music and have fun with it.
Then I went to the Yamaha Music School for ten years,
studying classical piano and composition. During that
same period I also took lessons on drums, playing with
rock groups.î After graduation, Naoki moved to Seattle
where he attended Seattle Central Community College.
Most importantly, he took a jazz ensemble class on
drums that led him to becoming very interested in
playing jazz. A turning point was when he tried out a
neighborís saxophone, immediately felt at home playing
it, and bought it for $100 before the end of the first
day. After graduating from SCCC, he transferred to the
University of Washington to study computer science.
However he became so proficient on the alto that he
enrolled at the New School University Jazz program in
New York City.
At the New School, he studied under tenor-saxophonist
George Garzone. ìI consider him my mentor. He stressed
the importance of time and also introduced me to
musical concepts which helped me to really open up my
playing.î Naoki was considered such a promising young
saxophonist that his recital performance awarded him a
position on the New Schoolís promotional CD.
For Deserted Island, which features eight of his
original songs, Naoki Iwane is teamed with a strong
rhythm section and welcomes for guest appearances by
Garzone. ìI prefer to play with people who understand
my music quickly and who bring more to the music than
what I wrote on the paper. That way they are able to
be creative in the music. Iíve known pianist George
Dulin for a year. As an improviser, he always blows me
away and his comping melts perfectly with my solos.
Bassist Chris Tordini has perfect time and intonation.
Drummer Tommy Crane always swings and is very musical.
Iíve known guitarist Kazuhiro Ikeda for five years so
he definitely knows my playing well. Iím very happy
with this group and the music that we play is
definitely very contemporary.î Whether it is the
stirring ìTwentieth Century Bebop,î the quirky
ìDeserted Island,î an introspective ìSea Watchî or the
fiery ìSlip + Slide,î the innovative alto solos, the
tightness of the ensembles and the interplay between
Naoki and George Garzone are not to be missed.
Naoki Iwane, who recently finished his Masters degree
in jazz at NYU, has in recent times taught at NYU for
a semester, gigged at the Lincoln Center and toured
Japan with his group. For the future he says, ìI want
to tour all over the world and introduce audiences to
my music. I want to play and record music that hasnít
been heard before.î
A great deal is going to be heard from this young
saxophonist in the future for Naoki Iwaneís career is
off to a very impressive start.