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Shoko Nagai

Brooklyn, NY   

Pianist Accordionist Improviser Composer

Shoko Nagai is a versatile musical artist who improvises and performs with world-renowned musicians on piano and accordion and composes original scores for films and live performances. As a teenager in her native Japan, Nagai was trained on Yamaha’s electronic organ, the “Electone,” to perform popular music. Since moving to the U.S. from Japan and studying classical and jazz music at Berklee, she has adapted her mastery of the keyboard to prepared piano, accordions, moog, and other instruments, often inspired by the minimalist approach of composer Takemitsu Toru. Whether she is performing Klezmer, Balkan or experimental music, Nagai is a charismatic presence onstage, who hypnotizes audiences with her intense focus and virtuoso sound. Nagai has received grants from New York Foundation for the Arts in 2010, and JazzJants (Painted Bride Arts Center) in 2008.
Since moving to New York in 1999 she has been dubbed an “MVP” of the downtown jazz scene, performing with John Zorn, Erik Friedlander, Ikue Mori, Marc Ribot, Frank London, Matana Roberts, Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto), Satoshi Takeishi, Butch Morris, Elliot Sharp, Ned Rothenberg and many eclectic performers. Nagai frequently tours internationally, performing in Sweden (2009 Nobel Prize ceremony for German writer, Herta Muller), Italy (Napoli Teatro Festival 2015), Austria (Saalfelden Jazz Festival 2014), France (Banlieues Bleues 2012), Switzerland (Rote Fabrik 2012), Holland (Bimhuis 2012),  Japan (Fuji Rock Festival 2012), Israel (Romanian Institute 2011), Canada (Suoni Popolo Festival 2008), Germany (Moers Jazz festival 2007), and Brazil (resfest 2007) and in the U.S. (Newport Jazz Festival 2015, Saratoga Jazz Festival 2008).

In 2015, Nagai self-produced the CD “Taken Shadows,” and recorded with Erik Freidlander on “Nothing on Earth” and Frank London on “Songs of Zebulon.” She also toured Japan with Vortex (Shoko Nagai and Satoshi Takeishi’s experimental electro-acoustic duo), toured Europe with Erik Freidlander’s “Nothing on Earth,” toured Italy with Marco Cappelli, performing with Italian actor Andrea Renzi in a play based on an Italian detective story, written by Maurizio de Giovanni, and performed in the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival (with Matana Roberts) and the New York Shakespeare Festival.

Nagai’s compositions for films include, L’amour Cache (2007), directed by Alessandro Capone and conducted by Butch Morris, as well as a trio of films directed by Linda Hoaglund: ANPO: Art X War (2010 Toronto, DOC NYC, Vancouver, and Hong Kong film festivals), Things Left Behind, (2012) produced by Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, and The Wound and The Gift, narrated by Vanessa Redgrave (Vancouver film festival, DOC NYC, Tokyo FilmX 2014).

Reviews of her performances include Time Out: “Shoko Nagai, one of New York’s most individualistic and intense performers on the avant-garde side of jazz – dazzles with her glimmering, darkly necromantic and blues-tinged piano”; The Jewish Daily Forward: “A veteran of the downtown jazz scene, pianist and accordionist Nagai delivered some of the most adventurous improvisatory solos… and sophisticated riffs from the keyboard and her gentle accordion”; New York Music Daily: “Shoko Nagai was the star… playing creepy, surreal, crashingly and virtuosically intense piano and accordion. Nagai kicks it off, brushing and rustling inside the piano in a fair approximation of George Crumb, before she goes deep into the murk.”

Shoko Nagai/ Satoshi Takeishi’s ABYSM 2 Premier Live Concert at Roulette NY

Experimental Piano/Percs, Electronics duo has been incorporating free improvisation, composition, electronics, found objects and visual elements into performances to create a unique path into the world of contemporary music. Their performances are based on stories and they create sound textures almost visible to the listener. In this performance, they performed new compositions a world where illusion is sustained by multiple shifting elements.
Shoko Nagai : piano, electronics/ Nitendo DS, Satoshi Takeishi : percussion/ electronics

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Shoko Nagai’s Taken Shadows Premier live concert at Roulette NY

Story: The worst curse for a demon who lives between the living
and the dead is the inability to die.
By stepping on a mortal’s shadow, a demon can become a human.
And a demon can die.
On the other hand, a human whose shadow has been stepped
by a demon becomes a demon.
And he or she, now has to find and step on another mortal’s shadow.

Shoko Nagai : composition/ piano/ handmade shadow puppet, Todd Reynolds : violin/ electronics, Jonathan Goldberger : electric guitar, Stomu Takeishi : electric bass, Jim Black : drums

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Shoko Nagai/ Satoshi Takeishi’s Abysm 1 Premier Live concert at Roulette NY

ABYSM (a tale of floating world)

A Tale : This sorrowful life is like an oxcart wheel. This sorrowful life is like an oxcart wheel. Is my nemesis from a past life? (from Noh “Aoi no ue”) The origin of the word “Ukiyo” meant “sorrowful world”, the early plane of death and rebirth. Eventually the Buddhist notion of a “transient world” replaced the original meaning. And in the Edo period (1600-1867), “floating world” was used to described the urban life style, especially the pleasure seeking aspects of a growing middle class.

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