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  • Jonathan Widran

JUN IIDA, Evergreen

The bio of multi-talented emerging jazz trumpeter Jun Iida reads a bit like a freewheeling cultural and geographic travelogue, with a foundation of classical and music from his Japanese heritage and location shifts throughout his life from his hometown of St. Louis to Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cleveland, Los Angeles and now NYC.


Perhaps one of his most creatively fruitful eras was the years he lived in LA, where he pursued his jazz ambitions while working an engineering job. Performing at jazz clubs, theatres and festivals, he hooked up with some of the city’s top musicians, including pianist and arranger Josh Nelson, whose powerful influence on Iida’s evolving artistry can be enjoyed on the trumpeter’s thematically and musically eclectic debut album Evergreen.


Iida's ability to swing and improvise like the legends on his instrument is clear from the get-go on the whimsical, high-energy opener “Gooey Butter Cake” (featuring music as tasty as the title implies!) But what truly sets him apart as a first-time recording artist is his desire to use music as a vehicle to celebrate his culture, and the unique horn/voice duality he creates throughout with the soaring vocals of NYC singer Aubrey Johnson.


Both transcendent elements come into play on the nostalgic surrealism of “Akatombo,” a charming Japanese folk song Iida learned in childhood, and the moody, retro-soulful “Shiki no Uta,” a Japanese language tune about a lover who pops in and out of one’s life that finds Johnson tripling her hypnotic vocals. Beyond the fond cultural touchstones, Iida enjoys breezing through the Sonny Rollins’ romp “Bellarosa,” paying sunny homage (again with Johnson as his amiable wing-woman) to the “Evergreen” spirit of his former home region of the Pacific Northwest, mourning the untimely loss of a friend (the haunting, intimate ballad “Song For Luke” and even mining film score magic via the graceful “Love Theme From Spartacus.”


Somewhat of an outlier but in the socially conscious spirit of the times, Iida’s “My Anguish in Solidarity” is an intriguing, rhythmically shapeshifting “My Anguish in Solidarity,” a hard hitting reflective modern sonata inspired by police violence against Black Americans.  

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