Tsuyoshi Niwa

soprano sax / flute / tenor sax / alto sax / bass clarinet / composition

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東京都出身。10歳からトランペットとコンピューター・プログラミングを始める。中学生時代をメキシコで過ごし、現地日本人学校を卒業後、帰国。高校では、当時トランペッターの不足していた器楽部に勧誘されるも、その勧誘した友人を裏切って一番人気のアルトサックスへと転向。大学は、漠然と国立理系を考えていたところに進路相談で推薦入学が可能ということを知り、理系科目では殆ど知られていない国際基督教大学へと進学。そして何故かコンピューターではなく化学を専攻。卒論テーマは「中国製ウーロン茶葉中における有機性残留農薬の分析」だったが、この頃既に音楽への関心のほうが高くなっていた丹羽は、ニューヨークのニュースクール音大を受験し、合格する。

23歳で渡米。ニューヨークではサックス奏者のジョージ・ガゾーンに師事。デイヴ・リーブマン、アーニー・ローレンス、レジー・ワークマン、フィル・マルコヴィッツらにも学ぶ。ソプラノサックスをメイン楽器として演奏するスティーブ・レイシーなどの影響を受けて、自身も一時アルトサックスを封印、ソプラノサックスのみを演奏する。作曲家としては師事していたフィル・マルコヴィッツ(p)の協力で初アルバム制作が決定し、マット・ウィルソン(ds)、トニー・マリーノ(b)らとともに「シーケンス X」をレコーディング。続く第2作「インターナル・ダンス(自主制作盤)」ではオーティス・ブラウン3世(ds)、レオ・ターディン(p)、イアン・リッグス(b)らと録音。ニューヨーク市内で始めた演奏活動では、当時学友でもあったロバート・グラスパー(p)とも共演した。

2003~2005年にかけては、歌手アマリア・グレの正式サポートメンバーとしてイタリアに渡り、メジャーデビュー作の録音、30都市を回る全国ツアー、ジャズフェスティバル、国営テレビ局RAIの歌番組などに出演する。2004年のイタリアツアーでは、マイケル・ブレッカーと旅先で一緒になり、諸事情あって出演順の入れ替わったブレッカー氏が前座を務めるという恐れ多い出来事もあったが、演奏後の楽屋で丹羽に対し「君のソプラノサックスの音色は非常に美しかったよ」と声をかけてくれた大物の懐の深さに感動する良い思い出ともなった。

ローマで自身の第3作「インターナルダンス(Alfamusic盤)」を録りおえた丹羽は、ニューヨークには戻らず日本に帰国し、演奏活動を開始。小山太郎ds、佐瀬正b、加藤英介pらとは、新宿PIT-INNを始めとする都内老舗ジャズクラブの他、NHK FM「セッション505」などにも出演。

2011年6月に再度渡米。7年ぶり2回目のニューヨーク生活が始まる。ランディー・ブレッカー、ビリー・キルソン、フィル・パロンビ、井上祐一らを迎えた第4作「アット・ジ・エンド・オブ・ザ・デイ」を録音後、発表記念コンサートをNYブルーノートで行った。

 

2015年5月に帰国。現在はメインのソプラノサックスに加え、テナーサックス、フルート、バスクラリネット、アルトサックスでライブ活動を行っている。

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Tsuyoshi Niwa’s first musical encounter was when he started playing the trumpet at 10. When his family moved to Mexico City two years later, the Japanese school already had enough trumpeters in its brass band, so he switched to the trombone. 

 

Besides the music, Tsuyoshi was also fascinated by what’s then called ‘personal computer’, which just emerged in market in the 80s. No ordinary family possessed a computer back then, and his family wasn’t an exception. So, he found a computer store on foot, and negotiated the store owner that he could study computer programming two hours a day for free. 

 

After coming back to Tokyo, he joined a high-school jazz band as an alto saxophonist. In college, he also started playing the soprano sax. He majored in chemistry. But, as he came close to the end of his science study, he realized that his true passion is in music. So, as soon as he finished analyzing pesticide residues in Oolong tea for his senior thesis, he applied to study in New York, the jazz center of the world. He passed a tape audition as well as an English exam. He moved to NYC when he was 23.

 

The New School Jazz Program in Manhattan, New York welcomed Tsuyoshi’s arrival. He studied jazz performance and compositions with mentors like Arnie Lawrence, Makanda Ken McIntyre, George Garzone, Phil Markowitz, Reggie Workman, Dave Liebman among many others. 

 

His debut album “Sequence X” was recorded with Phil Markowitz, Matt Wilson and Tony Marino, featuring his unique yet lyrical compositions. At this time, Tsuyoshi concentrated on the soprano sax to have a distinctive sound, as he analyzed those who double instruments tend to sound the soprano as secondary instrument. 

 

A personal financial emergency almost evicted him out of New York. But, thanks to the help he got from his college mate who’d been established himself as a business entrepreneur, Tsuyoshi got a working visa and a job at a noodle factory in Queens. Interestingly, when he revisited his music college and spoke with Reggie Workman, he remarked, “You’ve always been in a noodle factory”. Noodling is a term jazz cat uses when a horn player doesn’t stop playing consecutive eighth notes.

 

Through having private sessions and performing gigs in all over NYC, Tsuyoshi met many of then upcoming stars like Robert Glasper or Amalia Gre, who eventually sensationalized the jazz-pop culture in her home country of Italy. Because her success at home was significant, Tsuyoshi was urged to help her record and tour in Italy for six months. For him, it was a choice between getting a green card in the US through his computer job, or a national tour in Italy. But, he didn't hesitate to resign his job and left for Italy.

 

Amalia’s band toured around 30 cities including Venice, Turin, Milan, Rome, Florence, Naples to name a few. One of Tsuyoshi’s fond memories is meeting Michael Brecker at Torino Jazz Festival (May he rest in peace). Originally, the plan was to open for his band. But, due to a scheduling problem, Mr. Brecker asked if he could open first. The pressure of performing after an eleven time Grammy Award winner was enormous, but Mr. Brecker warmly saluted him to his backstage after the performance, commending the high quality of the soprano saxophone sound. When the tour concluded, Tsuyoshi recorded his 3rd album in Rome before going back to Tokyo.

 

Tsuyoshi’s original music was performed live as well as on radio programs, such as “Session” by NHK-FM. While he enjoyed the comfort of being back to his country, he was also anxious to find out if he ever wanted to ‘settle down’ as his 40th birthday was approaching. Actually, a few years was long enough for him to realize that he wanted to get out again. So, the next five years, he prepared to go back to NY and live as a full time musician. 

 

In 2011, seven years after living in Tokyo, and a few month after the disastrous earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown hit his country, he moved back to NY for the second time. This time, Tsuyoshi met the other Brecker, from legendary Brecker Brothers, 5-time Grammy Award winning trumpeter, Mr. Randy Brecker to record the 4th album. The original compositions are specifically arranged for the soprano saxophone and the trumpet. The album is on iTunes as well as on CDBaby, and its release party event at the Blue Note jazz club in NYC is on YouTube.

 

Currently, Tsuyoshi performs Soprano, Alto, Tenor saxophones, Flute and Bass Clarinet, but considers the soprano his signature instrument.