For the second time Carhartt WIP Radio features a show from the Land of the Rising Sun. This time we spotlight Jazzy Sport. Originally conceived as a record store in Morioka City, Jazzy Sport has become a Japanese hub for hip underground beats since the opening of its flagship store in the Shibuya district of Tokyo in 2003. Recently relocated to nearby Gohongi, the world-renowned beat boutique is sought out by visitors from around the globe and doubles as headquarters for the Jazzy Sport production house and the record label's ever-growing roster of DJs, MCs, producers, and designers. Their musical foundations are rooted in Jazz, Hip Hop, Downtempo, Library music, and House. In addition to breaking Japanese artists like DJ Mitsu the Beats, grooveman Spot, Gagle, Cro-Magnon and Budamunky Jazzy Sport has released a steady stream of collectible records by international cult artists including Count Bass D, SA-RA Creative Partners, Steve Spacek, and IG Culture. As lovers of music and sport, the close-knit Jazzy Sport crew also comes together to play Futsal as UFC Jazzy Sport or to climb and ski as Jazzy Sport Expeditions. For Carhartt WIP Radio they asked the Tokyo based DJ and producer grooveman Spot to mix a show with his favorite Jazzy Sport tunes. To accompany it, we spoke to Jazzy Sport founding member Taro Kesen about the aims and vibes of this multidimensional company.
(Taro Kesen, photo by Keisuke Aakabane)
Hello Taro, could you please share a bit of the Jazzy Sport history with us. What made you start a record store, label, and distributor under the name Jazzy Sport? Have you been working in the music industry already or did you make a fresh start?
Taro Kesen: We used to work for another independent label called File Records and learned how to work in this industry. Then we started an independent label (production work). At the same time our friends who used to work at record shops quit their shops so we headhunted them as specialists for opening a shop and a distribution company. In that sense we all were in the music industry before Jazzy Sport.
Any role models, inspirations, or benchmarks for Jazzy Sport?
Taro Kesen: Improvisation on musical sessions. Improvisation on imagination on football game passes and shots to goal.
What is your musical background?
Taro Kesen: Me personally: Punk and New Wave before Hip Hop began.
Is there a philosophy behind the name Jazzy Sport?
Taro Kesen: Taking Jazz as modern dance music. Taking music as a physical thing like sport.
How is the Jazzy Sport record store linked to the label?
Taro Kesen: With giving feedback to each other. We also make exclusive items for the shops. Also we have so many domestic and foreign artists and DJs that come through to our shop to our label. This makes the shop special.
Is there still a need for labels as institutions in today’s music market where everybody can upload his stuff by himself?
Taro Kesen: Artists need a financial background for CD and vinyl pressing. And also promotional skills for other media beyond the internet. So there is a need for labels in my opinion.
Jazzy Sport has a massive artist roster - how do you keep so many bands on your books at once?
Taro Kesen: Some of our artists do not live in Tokyo so we leave them their local business. Also we share all duties with all members of Jazzy Sport.
How do you find new music for the label?
Taro Kesen: Through the internet or through friends or our artists.
Do you have a "wish list" of musicians you'd like to see on Jazzy Sport?
Taro Kesen: Sometime yes but basically no. We want them to do what they wanna do.
Can you name us an artist or track you wish you would have signed to your label?
Taro Kesen: Shafiq Husayn, Mr. Dibiase.
On which of your releases are you most proud of?
SA-RA Creative Partners: Cosmic Dust & Cosmic Rust (only on vinyl)
SA-RA Creative Partners: Sonic Seduction Vol.1 & 2 (only on vinyl)
On what future projects is the label working on right now?
Taro Kesen: Gagle (Mitsu the Beats's Hip Hop group). And a new DJ Nature album which will be out early 2014.
What does an artist or track need to have for you in order to work with him/her or to release it?
Taro Kesen: Vibes.
And what was the biggest Jazzy Sport hit so far?
Taro Kesen: DJ Mitsu the Beats: Promise in Love feat. Jose Jamés.
How would you describe the music that you release to someone that hasn’t heard of Jazzy Sport?
Taro Kesen: Contemporary music that we need today!
What kind of music would you release in a world without electricity?
Taro Kesen: A solo piano album or spanish guitar music.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show?
Taro Kesen: The mix was done by grooveman Spot. It features his favorites of our owned music.
Who are you listening to these days?
Taro Kesen: DJ Nature and Gagle’s next album (not released yet). And Lord Echo: Curiosities (Bastard Jazz Recordings).
What old albums did you rediscover lately and what makes them special?
Taro Kesen: The Rhythm Makers: Soul On Your Side (Vigor Records). Lots of breaks, lots of killer tunes on the whole album
What track gets currently the most rewinds on your player?
Taro Kesen: Funkineven: Mars (Broadwalk Records).
Can you name us your favorite track by your favorite new artist?
Seven Davis Jr.: Unknown. It must be on Funkineven's Apron Records. You can check it here.
What is your first musical memory?
Taro Kesen: A forced dance show that I had to do at the kindergarten.
Can you name us three records to start a party?
Steve Arrington: Beddie-Biey (Atlantic)
Roy Ayers: Love will bring us back together (Polydor)
John Heartsman And Circles: Mr.Magic (Jazzman)
And three to finish one?
Skye: Ain't no need (Anada Records)
Rainbow Brown: It ain't no big thing (PAP Records Ltd.)
Bahamadia feat. Dwele: Philadelphia (Good Vibe Recordings)
What was the first record you bought?
Taro Kesen: Tom Tom Club: Wordy Rappinghood (Japanese press 7' Warner Pioneer Corporation) as I remember.
What was the last record you bought?
Taro Kesen: 2nd hand album of The Rhythm Makers: Soul On Your Side (Vigor Records).
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
Taro Kesen: I learned how to communicate and how to share vibes and feelings. Music is essential for life. Music is my life-saver.
When or where do you feel most at peace?
Taro Kesen: At snowy mountains - sun rise, sun dawn.
What is your favorite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?
Taro Kesen: Snowy mountains and natural hot springs.
What superpower would you like to have?
Taro Kesen: The ability to fly.
If you could spend a night partying with any of your icons, who would it be?
Taro Kesen: RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ.
You are located in Tokyo. What are your favorite spots and secrets in your hometown that you would recommend to somebody that comes around for a visit?
Taro Kesen: We also have another record shop together with bordering gym named The Stone Session in Morioka (up north in Iwate Pref.). I think that is very very 1st record shops with a bordering gym in the world. If you don't know Morioka Jazzy Sport is the place to go. In Tokyo I would recommend the Yakirtori restaurant Tosishige in Shibuya (need reservation) and the Motsu-yaki restaurant Ban in Yutenji.
Jazzy Sport discography