CINEMA SESSIONS: Tokyo Chuo-Line

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Text by Wang Hsin-Chuan

"This is bassist Mr. Toru and drummer Mr. Nori," Tokyo Chuo-Line's guitarist Ken Ohtake introduces his band members Toru Hayakawa and Noriaki Fukushima before performing their last song.

This CINEMA SESSIONS is very special not only because Tokyo Chuo-Line is an acclaimed band from Japan, but they have deeply been involved in Taiwan’s music scene for many years. This event invites their fans to enter the studio to watch them live as a celebration for their winning of the 30th Golden Melody Awards. Fans have this wonderful chance to watch an up-close live performance. It is filmed in one take, no small feat for the musicians.

Two songs from their new album Somewhere In The Middle were also recorded in this live session: "Crowded Subway" and "When The Moon Is Over."

Bassist Toru said: "Magic happens when you record at Yuchen Studio. Our last album Lines & Stains was recorded here with Andy Baker. Andy is a humorous guy."

Guitarist Ken said: "There aren't many recording studios this big. The atmosphere of Yuchen is very special, and there is much to learn when working with Andy."

Out of the three band members, Ken's Mandarin is the best as he often translate for his mates during interviews. (Note by editor: This article is originally written in Mandarin.) The trio share a long history and they all have jazz backgrounds. They are also members of the legendary Sheng Xiang & Band. However, what has changed when they're not performing with its lead vocal Lin Sheng-Xiang? Ken said, "Tokyo Chuo-Line's songs don't have lyrics, therefore giving us more freedom to perform in different styles, and we don't just play jazz, we also love rock."

In July 2013, this band with a name was inspired by the Tokyo Metro, performed at The Wall in Taipei for the first time. At that time, it was only Ken and Toru, and the two brought many jazz standards and blues. The following year, they decided to find a drummer. After Nori joined, "the line" connecting the music culture of Taiwan and Japan was formally formed and recording sessions began.

This year, the Tokyo Chuo-Line's second album Lines & Stains won the Golden Melody Award for "Best Performance Album Award." Receiving the award with them was saxophonist Min-Yen Hsieh, who had participated in the album's making. Hsieh is busy working on the vinyl version of his album As Good As Water. "They are like elders with much more experience than me. Coming from different cultural backgrounds, they are to me like both teachers and friends," said Hsieh.

"Because I have worked on the album previously, they have kept some space for the saxophone as a main instrument when creating songs. Because jazz is very flexible, even if sometimes it is just a trio, at times where they think saxophone can be added, I will join along." Min-Yen Hsieh said during a subsequent interview, "In comparison, not many bands are like them in Taiwan. Therefore, their talents stand out."

That day, Tokyo Chuo-Line brought more than an hour of performance. They show no slack in performance even when it was a free event. In front of the camera, they showed the spirit of art, focus and tacit understanding among each other. We can see how Ken and Toru used their body and breathing to drive the melody, and even though Nori seemed to be laid back, he still shows sturdy and dynamic drum skills. From the enthusiastic applause of the fans, there are no doubts about the magnificence of the three seasoned musicians.

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