Jazz on the harp

The monthly gathering of jazz fans known as the Rogue Jazz Exchange that met at Paschal Winery in Talent for the past five years has come to an end. However, it has evolved into the Siskiyou Institute's New Artist Series, which will continue to take place on a monthly basis in the tasting room at Paschal Winery, 1122 Suncrest Road, Talent, though not always on the first Wednesday of the month as the Rogue Jazz Exchange was before.

The first concert of the New Artist Series will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, and will feature jazz harpist Motoshi Kosako from Sacramento. Motoshi plays with a fluid, modern style that evokes the music of Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea.

Motoshi was born in Matsuyama City, Japan, Sacramento's sister city. He began his musical training at the age of 3 on the piano and later, the guitar. In Tokyo, he played the acoustic and electric guitar in professional jazz bands, and Swing Journal Magazine described him as "one of the most remarkable young jazz musicians."

In 1997, Motoshi moved to the United States, gave up the guitar completely and started playing the classical harp. He is primarily self-taught with a few lessons from Dominique Piana of Holly Name College in Oakland.

He later shifted his attention to the electric harp. He began performing numerous concerts as a soloist and as an accompanist for singers, flutists and violinists, writing music for productions and playing for public events. In 2002 and 2003, he recorded his first two solo albums "Celestial Harp I" and "Celestial Harp II." In 2006, Motoshi was named principal harpist and featured soloist of the Stockton Symphony Orchestra. In early spring of 2006, he began to explore the possibility of playing jazz on the harp.

This meant studying the artform and listening to the great jazz musicians before finding his own way to play "hard core" jazz on what formerly had been a classical instrument.

Late that summer, Motoshi won second place at the International Jazz Harp Competition in Salt Lake City. The following year, Sacramento Magazine voted him Best Jazz Artist editor's pick of 2007.

Motoshi continues to focus on composing and performing jazz music. Following his first released jazz album, "Naked Wonder," Motoshi is in the process of recording his second jazz album featuring the electric harp.

The New Artist Series expands on the concert and workshop series at the Old Siskiyou Barn that the Siskiyou Institute has presented for the past eight years. The series will provide an affordable opportunity for the music community of the Rogue Valley to hear and meet many new performers who are touring through the Pacific Northwest. The series will also feature new projects by regional artists with whom audiences may already be familiar.

Siskiyou Institute artistic director and co-founder of the Jazz Exchange, Ed Dunsavage, will be organizing this series. In addition to producing concerts and workshops, the Siskiyou Institute also has an Artists In The Schools program that it presents to music classes in the Rogue Valley.

For more information on the Siskiyou Institute and to see the complete schedule, see siskiyouinstitute.com.

Tickets are $12, $5 for students and $10 for Siskiyou Institute members.

Seating for this concert is limited and advance reservations are suggested. For reservations, call 488-3869 or e-mail info@siskiyouinstitute.com.

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