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Ayako Ukawa | The Tap, cd

The Tap
Ayako Ukawa

As early as the 1930's producers had already tried using tap dancers' performance sounds in general release recordings. In Japan, Tokio Hayashi recorded his tap sounds in a 78 RPM version of Bye Bye Blues. In the 1970's, the Nakano Brothers made an entire album with tap dance as the lead. Great ideas but they rarely find commercial success. It's understandable, I guess. People like to see the dancer and sometimes just listening to tap sounds doesn't quite make it. But sometimes it does!

The first time I saw Ayako Ukawa dance, at Tap In Studio in Tokyo, I knew she had a terrific talent with a wonderful jazz sensibility. Ukawa has performed in many jazz clubs in Japan, first as a member of the tap trio Steppin' Jazz with Takahide Kawamura and Sam Seimiya and more recently, as a solo dancer backed by some of the best jazz musician's in Tokyo. These performances drew attention from King Records' producer, Susumu Morikawa who asked Ayako to record a tap CD which was released in March, 2000. Titled The Tap, the production concept once again places tap dancers among the jazz musicians in instrumental settings. Ayako dances 10 numbers with great Japanese jazz musicians, including Seiji Tada (as, ss, fl), Masaaki Imaizumi (p), Norihide Shiota (b), Junji Hirose (ds) and two additional guests bass duo Vino Rosso (Kiyoto Fujiwara and Yoshio Suzuki).

On this CD, track 10 is quite unique. It's an acapella tap number recorded in a special way called binaural recording. Microphones were inserted into the ears on a human dummy head in an effort to truly replicate the way the music would be heard by human ears. Four tap dancers were positioned around the wired dummy. When you listen to this CD with headphones, you feel like you are surrounded by the four dancers. I was selected to be one of the dancers, along with Sam Seimiya, Tadashi Kato and Ayako Ukawa herself.

C Jam Blues | recording tap dance sounds
Ayako choreographed this ensemble tap number based on C Jam Blues.
We recorded the number at King Records, studio #1. December, 1999.
Click to read the liner notes.

— Shinichi Matsumoto