‘Why we joined the union’

Volume 119, No. 5May, 2019

Kaoru Morishita

I joined Local 802 after veteran pianist Kuni Mikami encouraged me when I happened to be at the union building to see a rehearsal of the Lionel Hampton Big Band. I had only been in NYC for two weeks at that point; I had been going to jazz gigs and joining jam sessions. Suddenly it seemed like a door of musical opportunity opened in front of me. I didn’t even know about Local 802 beforehand but instantly felt sure that I should not miss the opportunity to enrich my musical career. My favorite gigs are when I sing jazz standards, accompanying myself on bass and finding great pianists to work with. The richness of standards – not just the lyrics and melody but also knowing about the dramatic lives of the lyricists and composers – keeps attracting me. I want to keep sharing this rich drama so that I can make audience members feel that their lives are worthwhile, whatever difficulties they may face. One of my favorite recent gigs was playing Jimmy Cobb’s 90th birthday celebration at the Jazz Standard. It was priceless to witness how the jazz legend keeps exploring the musical horizon. Jimmy’s humble nature and his respect for young musicians made me realize what real greatness is. It was also a pleasure to see my friend Tadataka Unno play piano on the gig. I was born to a non-musical family in Japan. Maybe the lack of music in my young days cultivated my eagerness for music as I grew up. Music helps me to express who I am and connects me to other musicians and listeners. It helps me to feel what love is all about. Playing music gives me opportunities to inspire myself and others, making the best of our precious lives. My first love continues to be New Orleans music; I’ve been playing bass in New Orleans jazz bands over 35 years, starting from my college days. I currently live in Tokyo, where I sing and play standards with my trio. I hope to make NYC my new home in the future.