U.S. Army Japan Band Tohoku Tour 2012

By SGT Patrick McGee

News story photo
Uncle Sam’s All American Brass Band (USAABB) and Sabor K-Liente (SK-L), two music ensembles of the U.S. Army Japan (USARJ) Band, recently completed an eight day tour of Tohoku, Japan. This tour stopped in five different cities in the region and culminated in a featured set at the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival in Sendai.

These dynamic ensembles brought their high energy stage shows to audiences totaling over 5,000 people. SK-L started each night with a jolt of Latin rhythms and heavy horn lines. Some highlights of the show were Puerto Rican Power’s “Tu Carinito” Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente,” and El Gran Combo’s “Timbalero.”

Once the audience had a chance to catch their breath, USAABB took the stage and brought the house down with their mix of Pop, Rock, Jazz, and anything goes attitude. Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good,” and Young Blood Brass Band’s “Round One” punctuated a diverse set that had something for everyone.

After the performance, members of the band met the audience in the lobby for a meet-and-greet. Handshakes, smiles, and high fives went a long way toward overcoming the language barrier. The fine folks of Tohoku may have started off not knowing much about Latin and Brass Band music, but they left knowing two things: they’re both a lot of fun, and the members of the USARJ Band were very glad to bring it to them.

Perhaps, one of the most enriching performances of the tour was a stripped down show at a temporary housing community outside of Sendai. Residents of this area have been displaced since the March 2011 earthquake, and are not likely to be relocated for several years. USAABB played a short set, and then spent some time talking with the residents – who shared their personal stories, their thanks for the performance, and even their food. The outpouring of generosity from these citizens was truly humbling. To say that the afternoon was moving for the band members and residents alike would be an understatement.

On the last day of the tour, SK-L and USAABB gave a joint performance on the main stage of the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival for an audience of several thousand. Advertised as one of the largest jazz festivals in the world, the festival featured performers from all over the globe.

The USARJ Band packed a lot of playing into a short week, and is incredibly grateful to the residents of Tohoku for allowing them to share their music with them. Also, a special thank you goes out to Kenichi Kikuchi whose guidance was invaluable in the planning and success of this tour. For more photos of the tour check out the Tohoku 2012 Album on ABI or the USARJ Band’s Facebook page.

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