Yoko Noge and the Jazz Me Blues: Celebrating 20 Years of Chicago Asian American Jazz

Lecture Series

October 2, 2015


Assembly Hall

The Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival highlights the diversity of musicians that explore the Asian American experience though music, combining influences that include jazz, blues, rock, hip hop, improv/new music, and traditional Asian musical forms and instrumentation.  As part of this celebration, International House is delighted to host Yoko Noge and the Jazz Me Blues Band.

Yoko Noge, a transplant from Osaka, Japan, moved to Chicago in 1984 to pursue her interest in blues music. She has been chosen as “Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune and “100 Japanese the World Respect” by the Newsweek Japan.  In 2014, she was awarded the Foreign Minister of Japan's commendation for "Promotion of Understanding between Japan and the U.S.A.”

Yoko’s band, the Jazz Me Blues, formed in 1987, melds an incredible mix of Chicago blues, jazz, Japanese music and Yoko’s compositions. The band, composed of Yoko and five legendary Chicago musicians, has performed at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and the Asian American Jazz Festival. The band regularly tours in Europe and Japan.  For more information, visit yokonoge.com.

About the Band

Clark Dean is one of the only soprano saxophonists still playing in the spirit of Sidney Bechet and Bunk Johnson; he was inspired after meeting Bechet in Paris and watching his performances at the Olympia Music Hall and later in Chicago. Of Bechet, he says "he had more effect on me than Louis Armstrong - I was able to hear what he was doing. Nobody could touch that unique sound." His work has appeared on recordings by Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, and all the Jazz Me Blues releases. He has recorded with pianist Erwin Helfer for the Red Beans label and with Saffire the Uppity Blues Women for Alligator.

Tatsu Aoki founded the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival twenty years ago, and is a senior member of Jazz Me Blues. He has appeared on about 40 different projects as a sideman, is currently active with several coups as a mucisian, producer, and composer, and has recorded six acclaimed solo CDs. He has deep connections in both the worlds of experiemental music and the folk arts, having practiced the traditional Japanese art of Taiko drumming since childhood and playing the stand-up bass in free-bop and straight-ahead amalgamations, and has found new means of expression in the free-jazz arena with Fred Anderson, Mwata Bowden and Malachi Favors. Of Jazz Me Blues, he says "I don't think any band playing blues in Chicago has a sound like this. It's always refreshing. What I really love is that there is so much in this band that is about humor and fun. What's important to me is when the music is good."

Saxophonist Jimmy Ellis grew up in a musical family on Chicago's South Side in the 1930s and 40s. He met, heard, and shared his life with many of the great jazz artists of that era. He attended Du Sable High School with Nat King Cole and Johnny Griffen, all of them studying music with the famous band director Captain Walter Dyett. Jimmy has performed with many great bands through the years, including a tour with Earl Hines.  He has dedicated his life to music as both a performer and teacher, and many of his students are among the foremost jazz players of today.

Free and open to the public.

Presented by the Global Voices Performing Arts Series and Asian Improv aRts Midwest.

Yoko Noge & Jazz Me Blues perform おっさん 何するんや.

Yoko Noge

Tatsu Aoki