November 28, 2013We recently were privileged to enjoy a concert of contemporary jazz by a vibrant young group from Japan, the Ai Kuwabara Trio Project. Simply put, the combo rocked the joint at the King Center for the Performing Arts at the Auraria campus. The auditorium was full for the free performance, and I bet everyone there were blown away. Pianist Kuwabara is impossibly young for such an astonishingly assured and accomplished musician and composer. She's a mere 23 years old, but she and her bassist and musical partner Yusuke Morita have already released two albums as the Ai Kuwabara Trio Project (the "Project" part is because the group doesn't have a permanent drummer, though Shintaro Imamura is doing a sterling job on the current tour). The musicians' youth comes through in the way they are almost starstruck at their own success. At a pre-show reception, Kuwabara bowed deeply when she was introduced to Ikuhiko Ono, the Consul General of Japan at Denver, and his wife Eiko. The tour is organized by the Japan Foundation of Los Angeles, which brings a variety of Japanese arts and culture and showcases them here in the States. This particular tour was too brief: The group played in Berkeley and LA before coming to Denver, and the next day they flew off to Anchorage -- yes, Alaska -- to perform one more time before flying back to Japan.