Jazzen with John Kaizan Neptune

2010 July 3

John Kaizan Neptune in Toronto July 2008

In the early nineties I lived in Tokyo and had the privilege of making friends with the great American jazz shakuhachi player John Kaizan Neptune.  Born in Oakland and raised in San Diego this Californian has now lived and created music in Japan for over 30 years.

Neptune was introduced to the shakuhachi in the early 70s while studying ethnomusicology at the University of Hawaii – that is when he wasn’t surfing. Wanting to explore the shakuhachi in greater depth he moved to Kyoto and received the shi-han, or master’s certificate, from the Tozan School of Shakuhachi in 1977. Customary with the completion of training in traditional arts, he was awarded the honorary name “Kaizan,” which means Sea Mountain and nicely complemented his family name Neptune.    

Being the ingenious American that he is he began to employ techniques like double tonguing, multiphonics and began improvising with the instrument in a jazz style. He has made dozens of albums and received many awards.

When first I met him he was already living out in Kamogawa in his dome house in the beautiful Japanese countryside.  The one thing missing from his repertoire at that time was an album of unaccompanied flute music. The acoustics of his dome house lent itself perfectly to the creation of the CD “Words Can’t Go There” which was a combination of traditional classic hogaku and his original solo compositions. My only contribution to that project was phoning him periodically and nagging him about it.

In 2008, John was invited by the Washi Festival here in Toronto. He invited me to be a guest flutist at his gig at Lula Lounge. The organizers had arranged John to be backed up by two amazing musicians – the legendary Dave Young on bass and Robi Botos on piano. 

John Kaizan Neptune continues to live in Kamogawa where he makes world class shakuhachi and other bamboo instruments from bamboo he harvests himself.

For more information about John Kaizan Neptune visit http://www.pacificsites.net/~jneptune

9 Comments leave one →
2010 July 4

Ron, your presence here is much appreciated. I enjoy your music (Behind the Mask and Flute Traveler so far) and your review/recommendation … just downloaded Words Can’t Go There from iTunes … listening to it as I write. Wow, never heard double-tonguing like that on a shak. I lived on Hokkaido for a time in 1976/77.

2010 July 4

Your presence in the comments box and listening to BTM and FT are even more appreciated. I love Hokkaido – the great frontier. What part of the island did you live?

2010 July 5

Hi Ron … I lived on the coast, about an hour east of Obihiro. There used to be a small U.S. Coast Guard station near Takachibuto (sp?), pretty isolated and cold. I remember standing on the frozen ocean pretty far out from shore. Took a train to Sapporo once for the international ice festival in 1976–that was quite a sight. How great it would be to visit again after more than 30 years.

Not sure if the Coast Guard station is there anymore, since LORAN has long been replaced by GPS. Wish I knew about the shakuhachi back then. Everyone I knew was playing electric guitars and singing Beatles music. “Disco Duck” was popular at the time, too. Mostly, I played the stereo.

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