About Toshinori Kondo
Of course, like many avant-garde experimenters and musical iconoclasts, Kondo's early musical influences were largely straight-ahead jazz, especially hard bop. Indeed, the name of his college band, the Funky Beaters, fairly reeks of hard bop attitude, especially if one subscribes to the theory that the nickname "bop" came from the sound of a policeman's nightstick giving a suspect a beating. Such was the atmosphere during this artist's college days, when an enormous upheaval took place in the society, fueled on by the radicalism of the '60s. His first love in jazz was Charlie Parker, but unlike many trumpet players, he did not choose one road or the other between the two brass stylists closely associated with him: Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Both trumpeters became almost equally grounding influences in his playing, which has always combined the dazzling, sometimes outrageous virtuosity of Gillespie with just about every aspect of Davis' career one can think of, from the buzzy nestling of his Harmon mute to the entire electric music direction. The free jazz of Ornette Coleman was the next major influence, but within the spirit of this music, he developed his own frame of reference which was more strongly influenced by his upbringing and religious studies than any particular musical influences. His father had been a shipbuilder, and this man's combination of bouts of hard work and total relaxation became something of a philosophical view. "Is great: doing nothing" and "Best part: no meaning" were typical summations of the Kondo world view during an era when his mastery of English was still rudimentary.
He played with both British guitarist Derek Bailey and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy prior to his New York sojourn, and continued straddling the fence between conventional jazz collaborations and the outer fringes of free playing through his varied New York relationships. Another pre-American collaboration was with the free jazz drummer Milford Graves, recorded during a tour of Japan in which Graves collaborated with locals. The aforementioned return to Japan and great economic success eventually led to a decision to relocate to Amsterdam, where his profile became every bit as low as the Tokyo persona had been extravagantly widespread. Only a handful of Dutch musicians know how to contact him when he is in Holland, and he has made absolutely no effort to become involved in that country's heavily competitive jazz scene; and he is certainly the first immigrant to Holland about which that could be said.
In the early part of the new millennium, he was approached by the Dalai Lama about organizing an international peace festival in Hiroshima, an event that finally took place in 2002. The planning was difficult, as expected funding from rich Japanese businesses failed to materialize; even the mightiest companies were afraid of offending the Chinese, and subsequently losing their business, by throwing in with the Tibetans, even if just for a music festival. Kondo even met with the wealthy actor Richard Gere concerning the funding of this project, but the anonymous nature of the event makes impossible any revelation of moolah flowing from the pockets of his tight pants. Kondo continues to be a visionary spirit whose late '90s recordings in both free jazz and electronica have attracted an entirely new audience. One project that may never see the light of day, however, is an album of solo electric trumpet recorded for Tzadik; label honcho John Zorn apparently prefers this artist's acoustic playing and refused to release it. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi