Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Known to his fans as "Japan's Satchmo," Nanri was Japan's first major jazz star. At age 14, he began learning cornet as a member of the Takashimaya department store's youth brass band. He got his first pro gig two years later as a member of violinist/banjoist IDA Ichiro1s second Cherryland band, and moved to Tokyo. He spent many days in Tokyo jazz coffeeshops listening to the records of Red Nichols and Louis Armstrong, before heading for Shanghai, Asia's "jazz mecca," in 1929. There he met and studied with a former colleague of Armstrong's, pianist Teddy Weatherford, and developed his trad chops. When he returned to Japan in 1930 he was star soloist for the Nippon Columbia Jazz Band, and formed his own Hot Peppers in 1934. In 1936 he began leading the house band at the Peroke dance hall in Dairen, Manchuria, a gig at which he, by his own admission, made and squandered a fo rtune. He performed for the Shochiku Light Music Orchestra during the war, and reformed the Hot Peppers in 1946, becoming the leader of the country's Dixie revival. In spite of illness, he was able to perform with his idol Armstrong during the American1s Japanese tour of 1954. He continued performing around the country until his death. His life was the subject of a TV docu-drama in the 1950s, and he was the inspiration for the character Bakumatsu in the play The Shanghai Advance Kings (1979). Nanri was performing "hot jazz" at a time when sweet music was the rage, and a prize bearing his name is given by Swing Journal each year to a Japanese musician who has made significant contributions to the music and to its proliferation in Japan.