PREMIERE \\ Ronin Arkestra is a super group of Mark de Clive-Lowe, Kyoto Jazz Sextet, Cro Magnon and more

13th March 2019
Fans of Mark de Clive-Lowe and Japan’s fruitful Jazz scene will be excited about Rōnin Arkestra, a super group of instrumental trailblazers based in the space between L.A. and Tokyo. We’re premiering new track ‘Redeye Reprisal’ here on Supreme Standards (below). 
 
Rōnin Arkestra was brought together by Mark de Clive-Lowe, the half-Japanese, half-New Zealander pianist, DJ and producer. Now based in L.A and previously in London, he’s recognised for his impact on broken beat, blending jazz, electronics, funk and percussion-heavy music. 
 
The band includes heavyweight artists; Mark de Clive-Lowe is accompanied by members of Cro Magnon, Sleepwalker, Kyoto Jazz Sextet, Kyoto Jazz Massive, WONK and Sauce81. The ‘First Meeting’ EP was recorded at Red Bull Studios Tokyo and mixed by Adam Scrimshire and Dave Koor of label Albert’s Favourites – on which the record is released. Look out for it dropping on 22 March, with a full album to follow in September. 
 
Track ‘Redeye Reprisal’, which sees its world premiere below, opens with a sparkling fanfare. It’s completely joyous and celebratory – modern big band Jazz at its best. To celebrate its unveiling, Mark de Clive-Lowe talks to us about his new creative offering. 
 

\\ Tell us the journey behind the track Redeye Reprisal?

‘Redye Reprisal’ is named after an episode of the anime series Samurai Champloo – the series is about two ronin who get thrown together through seemingly random circumstances. The two of them are totally opposite from each other and go through a series of predicaments and adventures which juxtapose their own respective personalities and the ebb and flow between serious moments, fighting for survival and personality clashes with moments of great humor, sarcasm and innocence. One moment the two ronin, Mugen and Jin are being pursued by a henchman hell bent on revenge for his arm being cut off by Mugen, and the next moment they’re hanging out eating dango (Japanese mochiko dumplings) and joking with each other. The track combines all of that – the urgency of being chased down and the inevitable drawing of swords and shedding of blood along with the lighter moments of fun, laughter and brotherhood.

 

\\ What was the motivation behind launching Ronin Arkestra in 2017?

In recent years, I’ve been inspired to uncover new connections and make new stories in Japan – I don’t know what to call that except something of a calling towards a spiritual homecoming to my motherland. The two Heritage albums are a huge part of this already and I’m constantly searching for more points of connection. As well as spending time in places that I’m not as familiar with, and deepening my experiences in Japan in general, it also made sense to explore the connection more by creating music with local musicians. The vibe was so on point from the first meeting that I knew we had something special and that this was only the beginning of its journey. Besides that, it gives me one more reason to be in Japan more often!

\\ Tell us about the Japanese ethos that goes into the creative process?

I grew up biculturally so there’s much I relate to in Japanese ways of being. With Ronin Arkestra, everyone else is born-and-raised-in-Japan Japanese, so if anything there’s a mutual understanding between all of us that crosses language to the subtleties of cultural nuances. We also recorded in Tokyo, but aside from all that there wasn’t ever an intentional “Japanese-ness” to this project. I think by virtue of letting it be what it naturally is, it reflects all of our personalities and inevitably our individual and collective cultural roots. For this EP, we went into the sessions literally having no idea what we were going to do. As the band arrived and settled in, I was sitting at the piano sketching ideas that would be the loose framework for each track of the EP. It was pretty much one and a half days in studio and we were done. The only preconceived idea was The Silk Road Prelude, which is based on a melody I’ve been developing which soon after became The Silk Road on the Heritage II album. It’s fun having two completely different approaches to the same musical building blocks. 

\\ The group is made up of some real heavy hitters; did you get to know the fellow musicians as a fan first, or as a collaborator?

This band is crazy – there’s just so much talent in it and everyone’s contributing to the overall vibe and end result. I knew some of the guys from before. Nobuaki Fuji used to play drums in my Tokyo Trio – twenty years ago now, which is even before he played for Sleepwalker. Sauce81 and I got connected through a mutual friend and he was definitely key in helping bring some of the players to the table who I didn’t know. I’d been checking out WONK so when he suggested Hikaru Arata I knew that was going to work. Wataru Hamasaki and I had played together in Harvey Mason’s band a few years ago in Japan – we had DJ Krush in that band with us too, that was crazy. I called Wataru in for this project, and when I met Kohei at the studio for the first time he told me that Wataru used to teach him! Every person in the Arkestra is a band leader themselves and master of what they do – that’s why I wanted to name the project Ronin Arkestra. A ronin is a masterless samurai – that’s exactly what we all are, collectively making up this renegade collective.

Pre-order ‘First Meeting’ EP on Bandcamp

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