Jazzen with John Kaizan Neptune
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