Without a doubt, Ugetsu is one of the world's most energetic jazz bands. And one of the most international in outlook.
The German-based sextet includes players of Russian, German, American and Australian origin. And the leader is bassist Martin Zenker, who was inspired to model his group after Art Blakey's great Jazz Messenger bands while listening to the bop great's record in a bar in Wurzburg, Germany. Thus Ugetsu was born.
The name is Japanese and means "fantasy". It is also the name of a 1963 Art Blakey record. Like Blakey's bands, Ugetsu is about bringing together gifted musicians to share the spirit of fun and performing music on a high level. The six highly motivated, educated and professional musicians in Ugetsu play contemporary acoustic music with great originality. And they play for joy and fun.
Their Naxos Jazz debut, Cape Town Blues certainly lives up to the reputation. A bluster and flurry of straight-up hard-driving bop, the group performs all originals while drawing inspiration from the school of legendary improvisers past. But it is not a slavish respect Ugetsu owes to old masters. They do not make music that copies. Instead their sound springs to life with fresh vitality. Just one listen to Cape Town Blues and it is clear they bring a high level of intensity and enthusiasm to their effort. The title is from a Tim Armacost composition on the CD and is also drawn from their recent touring experience in South Africa.
Over four years and four CDs, the band has traveled the globe performing over 200 concerts. They have toured through South Africa, Australia, Europe, U.S. and even China - recording their last CD in Shanghai.