Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Ohno, Shunzo

Ohno, Shunzo, trumpeter, composer; b. Gifu, Japan, 22 March 1949. (A note about spelling: When Shunzo first arrived in NY he was advised to use "ONO" as it might be simpler. However Ohno is most correct and that is what he uses now.) His parents were mother, Isao Ohno and father, Rikuro Ohno. His parents owned a bar/restaurant mainly a bento lunch business. He took orders for lunch, delivered lunch boxes, then picked up the lunch boxes all by bicycle as well as washed dishes since he was 9 years old. He has two younger sisters, Keiko and Yukiko. Since there was never enough money for any extra luxuries, music lessons were not part of Shunzo's musical training. His first instrument was trombone because that was the only instrument available from his public school. Training came from nightclub gigs, listening to music and later during his professional travels he studied with various trumpet teachers. Presently, Shunzo lives with his wife, Kazuko (American born), and three daughters, Maya, Sasha , and Lea in New York.  

Ohno started playing trombone at age 13. This was the only instrument available at the school. He enjoyed playing brass and was able to obtain a trumpet in public school at age 17 in Gifu. He had not had private lessons until age 18, when he was taught by Mr Imaida. He was inspired to play by seeing a movie film called "Boy With Trumpet". It is the story of a small boy who lived in the mountains whose family was poor. He loved the trumpet but his father saw no value in it and one day crushed it. The boy continued to play it despite it being bent. One day his sister became ill. The boy stood on the train tracks and played his trumpet to stop the train to save his sister's life. In his early days he listened to Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Art Blakey, Louis Armstrong, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Miles Davis. His first music writing was for a 51 piece High School Orchestra. Nowadays he listens to classical artists as well as jazz.    In Japan he joined Keiichiro Ebihara and His Lobsters in 1968,aged 18. He played with Sound Limited and Soul Media before joining the George Otsuka Quintet from 1971 to 1973. He played on two George Otsuka albums, then his own album called Falter Out, before moving to New York in 1973 at the suggestion of Art Blakey at age 24.   In USA he played with Art Blakey and Jazz Messengers through to 1974. He played with Roy Haynes and Norman Connors (from Aug 24th 1974) in New York. He recorded with Machito and His Salsa Big Band in 1982. He performed at the North Sea Festival in The Hague in 1982 and in 1983 he played at The Lugano 'Estival in Italy with Machito. In 1983 he joined Gil Evans Orchestra and stayed until 1989. In 1985, 86 and 87 he spent time touring Japan with Super Sounds ,(with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Larry Coryell). In 1989 due to a car accident his front teeth were chipped and his lips were torn and cut.  It took a year to heal. In 1990, from 28/8-2/9, he played at Village Vanguard, NYC with Buster Williams Quintet and also in 1991. He stayed with Buster until 1994. He recorded with Buster 1989.
In 1995 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. It took over three years to overcome it. In 1997 from 14-15/12, he played at Body and Soul in Japan with Junko Onishi. In 1998, from17-22/11, he toured Japan with Wayne Shorter and the Fantastic Five. In 1999 he toured with Larry Coryell and Eleventh House to Europe and USA. In Year 2000 toured Japan with his own band and took in a 33 concert tour. He played with Wayne Shorter in San Francisco, USA in March 2000. May 2000 played in the Victory against Violence concert as part of Duper Sounds. August 2000 played at Ocean Blue Jazz Fest. in Hitachikana, Japan.In February 2002 Ohno was honored by the Universal Jazz Coalition and New York Jazz Center. Ohno received the Asian American Jazz Connection Award for his artistic achievements that have contributed to bridging Asian and American societies. For Ohno, who overcame a serious traffic accident in 1989 that broke his front teeth and split and tore muscle in his lips and then overcame throat cancer in 1995, the award symbolizes a "victory in life&qu ot; he achieved through surmounting hardships and struggles. He attributes his success to the encouragement of his many friends and mentor in life. (Quote from SGI website) In May, 2002, he received the Min-On Concert Assoc. Award of Highest Honor, which has the inscription: "You have never given in to adversity, your inner conviction unassailable. Your love for the trumpet and the exquisite music it creates is unsurpassed, its message of hope and triumph radiating from the world of jazz in New York out towards the entire world, instilling listeners everywhere the strength to live. In recognition of your inspirational service and contribution, the Board of Trustees of the Min-On Concert Association unanimously concur to present you with the Min-On Award of Highest Honor." A documentary video based on his life was released Oct.'99 as well as a biography book. This was discovered by television producers and a movie producer who were inspired to develop programs and movies based on Shunzo Ono's life. Shunzo's dramatic life story was aired on a prime time national Fuji TV sho, "Unbelievable" March 9,200. He did a May/June 2002 Tour of Japan with Edward Howard, Henry Hey, Billy Kilson and John Hart.A Fall Concert Series in 2002 was a great success with George Colligan, Ed Howard, Clarence Penn, and Ed Howard. In 2003, Shunzo is presently working on music for a movie, concert tours as well as with a youth orchestra group in New York

Recordings:
Live '94 Take Off!; Maya: Poetry of Japan

Bibliography:
There are a few words about Shunzo Ohno in the book 'The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz' published by St Martin's Press. There are references to him as Shunzoh Ohno, Shunzo Ono and Shunzo O'no, so check out these spellings when searching the Web.

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