The Wasabi Big Band"...great things come in small packages"

The Wasabi Big Band is a “little big band” consisting of 11 fine musicians led by Kris Kimura. The band has a sole purpose…to ENTERTAIN you by playing great music! Whether it’s hot jazz from the “Roaring Twenties,” Swing hits from the 1930’s and 1940’s, or the Rat Pack parties of the 50’s and 60’s, this band never fails to impress with it’s high energy and finesse. The sophisticated sights and sounds of the Wasabi Big Band will transport you to another era…where show bands and dance bands were all the rage. There are no midi or pre-recorded sweetener tracks. There is no auto tune. There is no slick marketing machine to create false hype. There are simply a bunch of great guys (and a gal) who truly love what they do and would be thrilled to spend some time sharing some music with you. Maybe we can do just that one day soon…

 

Influences of the band:

Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton, Rob McConnell, Marty Paich, Cab Calloway, Louis Prima, Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra, the Dorsey Brothers, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman, Thad Jones, Jimmie Lunceford, Gerry Mulligan, Phil Woods…geez, this could take a while…Harry Connick, Jr, Diana Krall, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Jamie Cullum, Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra…I could be typing all day. Let’s just say that after 30 years of listening to jazz, there are quite a few influences. Marcus Printup once told me that who we are as musicians is like a smoothie. You take a blender, drop in ALL of your influences, life experiences, and dreams. Blend well. What you end up with is ultimately who you are. We all have something to say… I am supremely confident that this project is much more than just a re-hashing of the music of my musical heroes. I am hopeful that what we can create something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts…something completely original and genuine. And if Marcus is right, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

 

Weddings, Private Events, Corporate Parties…

Sure. We can play your event. We’ll come out and entertain you and your guests. We’ll have a great time and you will as well. The fee is ONE MILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS.

I figured out a long time ago that I am certainly not going to get rich being a musician. There are many musicians that I know who covet fame and the big bucks that come with stardom. That’s what drives them. That’s cool. I’m sure there are lots of perks… that’s just not what drives me. Family and close friends are far more important  than getting on the Jimmy Fallon show or winning some award. I play music because I love to play music. This band was created to entertain and play music. Don’t get me wrong- if some manager or big booking agent wants to make us famous and rich, I would probably be okay with that. Without great managers and slick marketing people, I probably wouldn’t have heard Harry Connick, Jr or Diana Krall…and they are the reason I really got into music in the first place! That being said, if you like what we do and would like to share an afternoon or evening with us, let’s do it! We can probably negotiate the fee…in the past I have come down a little bit…

 

Recordings and Music To Purchase…

We’re working on it! It expensive to record and really capture the energy of a performance. You need a great studio and great gear. More importantly, you need a great engineer. These guys are passionate about what they do and unfortunately don’t come cheap. “You get what you pay for” applies here. With a great engineer and producer, the studio and the gear are not as important. Hell, those great Blue Note records were recorded in a living room! I have been tempted to start a kickstarter campaign so that we could raise the bread necessary to really get a great recording. I have thought about taking out a loan, selling my Harley, a second mortgage, busking, selling some of my saxophones, putting my kid to work… At the end of the day, my focus right now is on the live show. Every time I have seen one of my heroes live, it is WAAAY better than any recording. The first time I saw Harry Connick, Jr truly changed my life. I got to be there…in the moment…sharing in our mutual love for the music. He performed and I was entertained. It just doesn’t get any better than that. I only wish I could’ve seen Duke Ellington’s band live…or Charlie Parker…or Louis Armstrong… That being said, if someone out there wants to shell out some big bucks for us to try and capture a performance and make a record, let’s do it! Withyour money and my guys, we can’t fail! For now, everyone will have to settle for the real deal- come out and see us live!

Our StoryThe genesis of the Wasabi Big Band

Harry Connick, Jr’s album “We Are In Love” could be cited as the beginning. While in high school, I first heard this record and was inspired to become a musician…for a living. I had been playing saxophone for a number of years and had already been listening to quite a few of the jazz greats of the past. Old Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong records were already in the rotation, as was a sprinkling of Grover Washington, Jr, Hooked on Classics, and gangsta rap…quite the playlist. Then comes Harry Connick, Jr. His music and big band changed everything for me. Here’s this young, attractive, and talented guy playing music that I already liked-but he made it SO damn cool. I started to learn (or at least TRIED to learn) the solos of his musicians. I learned every word to every song and would sing along. I was certainly no singer, but he made me want to be…

When I started college at the University of North Texas, my saxophone instructor was playing 2nd alto in Harry’s band. How cool was that? There was a two week period where we didn’t have lessons because Harry had flown the band to Paris to record his first Christmas record. Again, how cool was that?

I ended up transferring to Southwest Texas State University to finish my jazz studies degree. While in school in San Marcos, I had really begun to get work as a sideman with some bands that were enjoying the neo-swing renaissance of the mid nineties. Fun times. It wasn’t long before I realized that most band leaders I worked with were just grown children with serious delusions of rockstardom. The music seemed always to take a back seat to picking up chicks and getting drunk. I guess I worked in some really bad bands for a long time. That being said, I was now a working musician.

I started my first band in 1997 with a bunch of my buddies in college. We were young and really hungry to make some great music. I was writing tunes and somehow, probably because of the big swing revival that was still going on, we worked. We had club dates and private events and even did a little bit of regional touring. Good times. This first band was an eight piece band with a rhythm section, trombone, trumpet, bari sax, and myself on tenor and alto. I’m very proud of all those guys and what they have accomplished. One of “my guys” just won a Grammy with his band in 2013. Another has been playing with Michael Buble for several years now. A couple of them have worked hard and achieved Master’s and Doctoral degrees from some great universities. Several of them are teachers- from elementary school teachers to college professors. Truly a great group of guys.

The work really started to slow down around Y2K. The band sounded great, but people are fickle. Club owners always hire the music that’s “hot” at the time. They have to move booze and we found ourselves in a situation where swing music and jump blues were becoming “so last year.” I took the band out with me to work on a cruise ship. We played Vegas-style production shows as the pit orchestra. We traveled all over the Caribbean. We drank rum in St. Thomas and smoked…uh…cigarettes in Jamaica. We sipped fruity drinks on white sand in Grand Cayman. There was San Juan, Cozumel, St Maarten, St. Croix, St. John, Miami, Montego Bay, Martinique, and probably some other places I’ve forgotten. We would play the big production shows, back up fly-on performers, and sometimes would put on our own show. Good times.

After life on the ship ended, it was back to San Marcos and school. The swing gigs had all but disappeared and the band that I had enjoyed for the last few years disbanded. I kept working as a sideman in salsa bands, funk bands, country bands, and any other band that needed a sax player. There was one swing band that continued to work regularly after the big swing bubble burst. This was a band led by a singer who was a “very charismatic character.” His band was a retro “rat-pack” novelty group that made really good money playing private events and weddings. After I had subbed in his band a number of times, I convinced him that I could put a better band together for him. I contacted as many of my original guys as I could and we did just that. For a couple of years, I acted as his musical director and road manager. He was one hell of an entertainer. It was a wonderful learning experience for all of us. We learned a lot about “what it takes” to be successful as performers. There came a point that I realized that the music was not the draw…it was him. This guy really knew how to work a room. He was amazing at that. The music definitely took the role of “louder+higher+faster=better.” This is not what real musicians strive for. This is certainly not what I wanted to do for any longer. Since I first started playing, I had come a LONG way musically. This would not be where my personal growth was going to stall out. I had to quit his band. So I quit the band. Some of my guys stuck it out for another year (the money was really good), but eventually, they all left.

Back to playing in salsa bands, rock bands, funk bands, etc…

I started to focus more on school. I had some wonderful professors. I studied arranging and theory. Texas State had some great big bands in the program and I played everything from lead alto to bari. There were school combos and I even got to play with the orchestra. College days were great for opportunities to play with a bunch of different people in a very friendly and constructive setting. It was a great chance to be introduced to new music that my friends were into. I listened to a lot of music. A lot. Good times.

I started a quartet. We played mostly jazz standards. I started to sing. That was a big deal, I guess. Suddenly, my quartet was able to get enough work to pay all my bills and keep my horns out of the pawn shops. Over the next ten years, I learned a whole bunch of tunes. All of us started to really figure it out. Before I knew it, we were very in demand for private events and weddings. When our heroes happened to have dinner at a restaurant we were playing at, they loved us. We now had legions of fans…maybe not legions, but quite a few. There was so much musical growth happening… before we knew it, we had zipped through our twenties and were now in our thirties- married with mortgages and kids. Life is pretty crazy. The quartet continues to work regularly today. We’re still growing as musicians and upstanding citizens of the US of A.

The history of the Wasabi Big Band could’ve been summed up in one sentence. If you’ve made it this far, I owe you that…

The Wasabi Big Band was started in 2014 because I wanted to have a bigger band.

So, now we have the Wasabi Big Band.

Stay tuned for more…

 

The MusicFrom the Roaring '20s through the Rat Pack and more!

“…great things come in small packages”

The Wasabi Big Band is a “little big band” consisting of 11 fine musicians led by Kris Kimura. The band has a sole purpose…to ENTERTAIN you by playing great music! Whether it’s hot jazz from the “Roaring Twenties,” Swing hits from the 1930’s and 1940’s, or the Rat Pack parties of the 50’s and 60’s, this band never fails to impress with it’s high energy and finesse. The sophisticated sights and sounds of the Wasabi Big Band will transport you to another era…where show bands and dance bands were all the rage. There are no midi or pre-recorded sweetener tracks. There is no auto tune. There is no slick marketing machine to create false hype. There are simply a bunch of great guys (and a gal) who truly love what they do and would be thrilled to spend some time sharing some music with you. Maybe we can do just that one day soon…

Influences of the band:

Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton, Rob McConnell, Marty Paich, Cab Calloway, Louis Prima, Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra, the Dorsey Brothers, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman, Thad Jones, Jimmie Lunceford, Gerry Mulligan, Phil Woods…geez, this could take a while…Harry Connick, Jr, Diana Krall, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Jamie Cullum, Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra…I could be typing all day. Let’s just say that after 30 years of listening to jazz, there are quite a few influences. Marcus Printup once told me that who we are as musicians is like a smoothie. You take a blender, drop in ALL of your influences, life experiences, and dreams. Blend well. What you end up with is ultimately who you are. We all have something to say… I am supremely confident that this project is much more than just a re-hashing of the music of my musical heroes. I am hopeful that what we can create something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts…something completely original and genuine. And if Marcus is right, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Big John’s Special
Everybody Stomp
Cotton Club Stomp
Variety Stomp
Toot Toot Tootsie
Ain’t She Sweet
Simple Melody
Moten Stomp
The Stampede
Double Check Stomp
Radio Rhythm

In The Mood
Tuxedo Junction
Jersey Bounce
Johnson Rag
Pennsylvania 6-5000
Satin Doll
String of Pearls
Little Brown Jug
American Patrol
Tea for Two
Sentimental Journey

Come Fly With Me
Fly Me To the Moon
I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Mack the Knife
Just the Way You Look Tonight
L-O-V-E
Ain’t That A Kick In The Head
I’ve Got The World On A String
On The Sunny Side of the Street
The Lady is A Tramp
You Make Me Feel So Young

Stay tuned for more…