Jazz and Far Beyond

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InterviewsNo. 287

Interview #239 Atzko Kohashi & Tony Overwater

Interviewed by Kenny Inaoka for JazzTokyo, via Google Document, February, 2022

Part 1

JazzTokyo: To begin with we would like to congratulate you guys on having found the international outlet of this one of the most beautiful albums, Crescent, which enjoys many favorable reviews from European media, we hear.

Tony Overwater: Thank you so much. The pleasure was ours to create this album and to be able to release it in Japan at StudioSongs and at my own label Jazz in Motion Records for Europe.

Atzko Kohashi: It was quite amazing that Crescent was released on the Studio Songs label in Japan last July, only five months after the recording. It was a Japan limited edition at the time, but was released internationally on Jazz in Motion Records in January of this year, exactly half a year later. It’s nice to have two different designs of CD sleeves from the same recordings.

JT: Originally this session was planned as the concert but was switched to a recording due to the pandemic?

Tony: Yes, we planned to record an album in front of a live audience but unfortunately that wasn’t possible due to the pandemic. But we decided to record the album anyway as if an audience was present.

JT: The concert was scheduled at the same church as for the recording. Where is it located in Netherlands?

Tony: The Beauforthuis is a former church built in 1861; it was later converted into a small concert hall. It’s located in a village called Austerlitz, in the middle of a forest in the center of the Netherlands, near to Utrecht.
It was a beautiful winter’s day and snow covered the forest. The atmosphere had a quiet magic which gave us inspiration to record.

Atzko: You can see what the surroundings looks like in our mini-documentary on;

JT: The Fazioli piano is ready at the church or was brought in for the recording?

Atzko: The Beauforthuis has four grand pianos; old Steinway, Fazioli, Bechstein, Blüthner. I hear that most of the pianos were donated. No one would use it if it was left at home, so they want it to be used here. Then those pianos would be happy to breathe again and bring beautiful sounds back. There are many such cases in Europe.

JT: To my ears it sounds more glossy, shiny and sometimes even sexy than those by other brands we are familiar with. Do you think those characteristics are peculiar to Fazioli or you manage to create them yourself?

Atzko: As with any instrument, not just the piano, the sound changes depending on the player. And of course the acoustics of the venue affects the piano sound. So the sound of the piano you can hear now is the result of the sound of the instrument itself and the acoustics of the building. Also the climate affects quite a lot. In the winter, the air is colder and drier, and the pressure on the strings may drop, causing the piano pitch to go flat. So the pitch of the piano wasn’t always perfect in this recording, which may add more natural and relaxed feelings. Above all, another strong factor is Tony’s bass, which would resonate the piano sound.

JT: What are you most impressed with when you played it for the very first time?

Atzko: I thought it was a truthful instrument. Fazioli piano will not react properly unless you are confident in what you are doing. Instead, when playing with passion, it helps you to express more, from pianissimo to fortissimo, from low to high frequencies.

JT: Your instrument looks pretty old. Could you tell us the story about your instrument, Tony?

Tony: I bought this instrument a few years ago. Not much is known about the instrument but most likely it’s a 18th century bohemian bass. Built in the fashion of the Viennese bass tradition. It has obviously lived and seen a lot and it has been restored numerous times. The moment I saw the instrument I fell in love with it. I like instrument that have a history, scars, repairs. Time has shaped them and given them a unique character which I don’t find in new instruments. I changed the strings to two gut strings (for the D and G, the high strings) and kept the low strings to be of metal. These old basses were built for gut strings and steel strings often creates too much tension on the instrument so it can’t sing freely. The gut strings gave this instrument its original voice back. It’s dark and clear at the same time, so full of character.

I use this bass mainly for my concerts with Atzko. It has become essential in our musical conversation. For my other musical projects I more often use my French bass from the 19th century. It has a more neutral sound and is also easier to play.

JT: Did you employ gut strings instead of steel strings for this recording? What effect do you think this choice brought to the music?

Tony: I think the bass and the piano are equal conversation partners with Atzko and me. When we play it becomes a dialogue between the four of us. So I think the instrument is not just a tool but actually a part of the conversation and the musical expression. The gut strings give a more complex tone than steel strings. This adds to the character of the sound but makes it more difficult to play.

JT: Did you use three fingers to play fast and complicated passages ?

Tony: I don’t play with three fingers on the right hand. Only few players use that technique, like Niels Henning Pederson. I draw my inspiration from other bass player but also from Arabic ud players and players of the viola da gamba.

JT: Did you guys enjoy to play around completely pure acoustic environment without any booth, monitors or headsets?

Tony: Yes we played completely acoustic. This was important to us. This way the instruments are resonating in the same space and influence each other. And for Atzko and me it’s also wonderful to play acoustically because then we play in the real balance of the music. No adjustment has to be made in the recording.
Atzko: Addition to that, we can communicate easily in this setting and feel each other’s presence closer while playing.

JT: Are you familiar with Frans de Rond, the engineer?

Atzko: He has recorded most of my past recordings. More than 7 albums, I think. He has a great work ethic!

Tony: Yes, I know Frans since a long time (1990s) when we both studied at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. He studied sound recording and I studied jazz double bass. We recorded another album together with Atzko. The album is called Virgo and also featured Dutch trumpet player Angelo Verploegen. That was actually the first project Atzko and I did together.

JT: The sound is the purest and both are perfectly blended. Could you tell us gears he used for the recording, if possible?

Tony: Frans de Rond used mainly Josephson microphones, a stereo mic in the piano and one in front of the bass and high up in the building another Josephson. The sound quality is a result of the wonderful and quite well known acoustic of the Beauforthuis, the Fazioli piano and my Bohemian bass, and of course the skills of Frans de Rond, Atzko and me. We are all dedicated to sound. Sound is the transmitter of our musical language and it is an important part of the message as well. Every little detail is important to us.

Here you see more about the recording.


Part 2


Atzko Kohashi (p)
Tony Overwater (b)

1. Wise One (John Coltrane)
2. What’s New (Bob Haggard)
3. Lonnie’s Lament (John Coltrane)
4. De Boot (Tony Overwater)
5. Crescent (John Coltrane)
6. Nightfall (Charlie Haden)
7. Mr. Syms (John Coltrane)
8. Our Spanish Love Song (Charlie Haden)
9. As Long As There’s Music (Jule Styne)

JT: The repertoire consisted of five tunes related to John Coltrane (M1,2,3,5 & 7), and three to Charlie Haden (M6,8 & 9) and one Tony’s original (M4). Are they selected by Atzko?

Atzko: I am very interested in music composed by jazz musicians (instrumentalists). On our previous album Virgo with Tony and Angelo Verploegen, we featured music by Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny. The songs that the Jazzmen write are not just beautiful songs but also experimenting through their compositions. They are trying to find something while liberating themselves freely. They don’t mention what it is, but through playing their songs, we gradually come to understand what it is. I like that process very much. And we, ourselves, can find our own unique perspective through playing their compositions. Thus there are a lot of possibilities in the music composed by jazzmen. I think this is also true for Tony’s original composition De Boot. Every time we play it, we see a new world.
As for the repertoire on our album Crescent, if it weren’t Tony as the bassist, and without his energetic bass sound, I would never come up with playing Coltrane’s songs as a duo.
“I’ve found you’ve got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light,” said John Coltrane and we think it’s really true!

Tony: Yes, it was Atzko’s idea to start with, to use the Coltrane compositions. I was a little hesitant, Coltrane is so known for his furious virtuosity, I found it intimidating that I had to play that on the bass. But then I heard the compositions she selected and heard the beauty of it and I realised that Coltrane is also about sound, about beauty and spirituality. More important than his virtuosity. Every time I hear him play for instance ‘My one and only love’ it gives me goosebumps. We decided to also include other music that has the same artistic and spiritual content. Coltrane’s album Crescent was the inspiration for our album, the goal was not to copy his music but to celebrate his compositions and spirit.

Jt: Why Coltrane for duo and under this difficult circumstances?

Atzko: Dutch newspaper Volkskrant described our album as “Saxless ode to John Coltrane.” It is true, but I had never thought that way. To me, it’s very simple. We musicians  just can’t resist playing beautiful melodies. “What if I played it on the piano? What would it sound like if Tony played it on the bass?” I thought. Throughout the process we were energized by Coltrane more and more.

Tony: For us the music of Coltrane, especially that album Crescent has a soothing and healing effect on us. Maybe this is the most important effect on music on human beings. That we feel connected again to the source of life through music. That is why, for me, it is both happy and sad at the same time. You feel happy to connect to this source but you also realise how much you missed it. Like missing a relative or a good friend. So tears of joy and tears of longing.

JT: The composition (construction) is quite well-organized in each tune. Did you guys discuss about the arrangement prior to the recording?

Tony: We rehearsed quite a lot prior to the recordings. To make simplicity sound natural and always interesting you need to take care of many details. But at the same time we are improvising musicians so we mostly needed to organise a structure that gives us freedom to express ourselves in the moment. Many of the songs we recorded went quite differently than planned. I feel very happy about this. It felt like we made the music in the moment, and that we had created a safe and warm environment for it where we were able to be free.

Atzko: ….And, because of being in the midst of a pandemic, we were able to devote a lot of time to rehearsals. More importantly, we had the pleasure of playing our instruments, though only in rehearsal, as concerts had been banned at the time.

JT: In case of Mr.Syms which I like most among all, you keep walking while Atzko creates bluesy feeling in pretty an abstract way, then you start soloing eloquently until the sudden ending. I am quite interested in this arrangement. Is this based on the head arrangement?

Tony: This is one of the songs we worked on a lot. In the end it’s a ‘simple’ blues but to make it our own and to make it special we needed to let go of all the cliches of the blues and recreate it in our own Japanese/Dutch music language.

Atzko: Coltrane composed a lot of blues. Within this simple 12-bar song, he tries different experiments each time, discovering various scales or chord progressions etc… Just like the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh is said to have tried various innovations through his self-portraits. So, why not try various experiments through this blues, we thought.

JT: In some cases you are taking quite an eloquent solo. Does this try to reflect the one by Coltrane in some way?

Tony: In a way, yes, It’s part of the spirit of Coltrane. Having so much to say and so little time. 🙂
But also I think I naturally create a contrast with Atzko’s playing, she is much better in keeping it simple yet interesting. And this creates a nice variety and maybe a reversed expectation, since usually it’s the piano that plays more notes. I am also inspired by Bill Evans recording ‘Live at the village vanguard, of course. With bass player Scott Lafaro. In this trio it’s also Scott that is often quite busy but also fulfilling his function as a bass player.

JT: Do you think you have been influenced by “European” way of playing jazz while having played with various European jazz musicians so far, Atzko?

Atzko: When I interviewed Karin Krog for your JazzTokyo a long time ago, she said, “My performance style changes depending on where I live, who I’m with, what I’m thinking about, and what’s going on in the world. I have realized that this is true. When I came to the Netherlands from Japan, I was first surprised by the quietness of the town. The quietness makes you more sensitive to sound. Naturally, the pianissimo in my piano became softer, making me more sound-conscious. I think those changes were certainly significant for me. On the other hand, my longing for American jazz never faded away, rather it only grew stronger.I am convinced that my music has always been rooted in jazz, although in Europe there is an increasing fusion of classical and jazz music. Tony’s musicality is also very versatile, but I can clearly feel the roots of jazz in him as well.

JT: Even though do you feel something Japanese in her way of playing jazz, Tony? If yes, could you tell us some examples?

Tony: Yes, the playing of Atzko has definitely Japanese culture in it but also her female energy that is making her such a special and sensitive player. The Japanese influence, according to me, is the attention to detail and refinement. A certain politeness and leaving space for others. For me as a bass player it’s such a delight to play with her. Her sensitive tone and playing leaves room for the bass.


Part 3

JT: Where were you born?

Atzko: I grew up as a child in Nakano-ku, Tokyo, and spent my youth in Chigasaki, Kanagawa- shonan coast town.

Tony: I was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. 24th of March 1965

JT: Were you born under musical family?

Atzko: My father was an alpinist who made the world’s first ascent of Ausangate in the Peruvian Andes. He was also an expert in biomass energy research. You see that he was not interested in music at all. My mother loved classical music and wanted her daughters to learn to play the piano, so when I turned five, she took me to a piano teacher. When I later switched to jazz, she was very disappointed.

Tony: Not really. My father was an architect and my mother was mainly a housewife. My grandfather on my mother’s side was musical, he played organ, violin and other instruments. My first musical memory is playing on his organ in his house. He gave my brother and me a guitar. But I didn’t start playing music seriously until I was 16 and I discovered the bass (guitar).

JT: We are quite interested in your last name Overwater. Could you let us know your family background, if you feel willing?

Tony: Both my father’s and mother’s family have a nautical background. My mother’s father was from Scheveningen (a fisherman’s village) and a fisherman and seaman. My father’s father had a boat that transported goods on the rivers in Europe. Further back in the Overwater line there is a ferry man that would transport people from one side of the river to the other side. So probably that’s where the name comes from.

JT: When did you guys show your interest in jazz for the first time?

Atzko: One day, when I was still in high school, I suddenly heard some pleasant music coming from my sister’s room. What a lovely sound! I thought.  It was Wes Montgomery’s A Day in the Life. Since then, I became captivated by jazz.

Tony: I was around 17 when I started to play jazz and double bass. Before that I played a little blues and Jazzrock. I played in a school band and sometimes in a local Dixieland band. I got a double bass when I was 17 and went to the Royal Conservatoire one year later where I studied with John Clayton for some years. Now I am teacher at the same school. Jazz has always been important to me but I also got interested in Early music and Arabic and Persian music.

JT: Who are your favorite musicians?

Atzko: Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Paul Motian,……… Karin Krog, Sheila Jordan……………………………and of course John Coltrane………

Tony: So many… but on bass, in chronological order: Oscar Pettiford, Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland. But also Munir Bashir (ud player from Iraq) and Jordi Savall (early music viola da gamba), Bill Evans and many others.

JT: How did you know each other?

Tony: We met each other through a mutual friend and audiophile specialist Harry van Dalen from Rhapsody. Harry also produced our first album Virgo.

Atzko: Officially, that’s true, but personally, I had heard Tony’s play in his concert many times before, although he probably didn’t know it. Playing with Jesse van Ruller, with Paolo Fresu, with Norma Winstone, with Rembrandt Frerichs trio, with Tony Overwater Ensemble…., I always appreciated his one & only unique sound. I wondered how he was able to produce such a low-frequency sound without extension board, which we normally don’t hear from other bassists. I later heard from him that he sometimes changes his tuning to fit the song. Amazing!

JT: Have you been to Japan, Tony?

Tony: Unfortunately not. I have played in more than 60 countries and Japan was always on the top of my wish list but it didn’t work out so far.

JT: Finally, please tell us your dream.

Tony: So, obviously my dream is to play concerts in Japan with Atzko. 🙂

Atzko: Dreams are entrusted to the crescent moon, aren’t they? Just like my dream came true with the release of this album!

Part 1



トニー・オーヴァーウォーター:ありがとう。このアルバムを制作し、日本ではStudioSongsレーベルから、ヨーロッパでは自分の Jazz in Motionレコードからリリースできてとても嬉しい。

小橋敦子:このアルバム『クレッセント』が録音からわずか5ヶ月後の昨年7月に Studio Songsレーベルからリリースされたのには驚きました。当初は日本限定発売だったのですが、ちょうど半年後の今年1月にJazz in Motionレコードから世界に向けリリースされたことになります。ひとつのアルバムが2種類のカバーでリリースされるのも素敵ですよね。

























トニー:フランス・デ・ロンドが使うマイクは主にジョセフソン(Josephson) で、ピアノにステレオ・マイクを1本、ベースの前と室内の高いところに1本ずつセットしている。サウンド・クオリティは、素晴らしく著名なボゥフォアハウスのアコースティック、ファツィオリ・ピアノ、僕のボヘミア製ベース、それにフランス・デ・ロンドと僕と彼女の技の結集だね。僕ら全員で音には本当に気を使ったからね。音は僕らの音楽言語を伝える手段だし、メッセージの重要な一部でもあるんだ。僕らにとっては本当にちっぽけなディテールも重要なんだ。レコーディングについてもっと知りたければ youtubeを見てくれるかな。

Part 2



小橋敦子 (p)
トニー・オーヴァーウォーター (b)

1. Wise One (John Coltrane)
2. What’s New (Bob Haggard)
3. Lonnie’s Lament (John Coltrane)
4. De Boot (Tony Overwater)
5. Crescent (John Coltrane)
6. Nightfall (Charlie Haden)
7. Mr. Syms (John Coltrane)
8. Our Spanish Love Song (Charlie Haden)
9. As Long As There’s Music (Jule Styne)

JT:レパートリーはジョン・コルトレーンがらみが5曲 (M1,2,3,5 & 7)、チャーリー・ヘイデンがらみが3曲 (6,8 & 9)、それにトニーのオリジナルが1曲 (M4) ですね。これは小橋さんの選曲ですか。


模索しているのですね。彼らはそれが何であるか口にこそ出しはしませんが、演奏しているうちにだんだん分かってくるのです。私はその過程が大好きなのです。そして、私たち自身も彼らの楽曲を演奏することを通じて私たち独自の展望を見出すことができるのです。このように彼らジャズメンが作曲した音楽は途方もない可能性を秘めているのです。同じことがトニーのオリジナル <デ・ボート>にも言えるのですが、演奏するたびに新しい世界が見えてくるのです。




小橋:オランダの新聞「Volkskrant」によれば、私たちのアルバムは “ジョン・コルトレーンに対するサックス抜きの賛歌” ということになります。確かにその通りですが、私自身はそのように考えたことは一度もないのです。とてもシンプルなんです。私たちミュージシャンは美しいメロディがあれば演奏せずにはいられないのです。私がピアノで弾いたらどうなるのかしら? トニーがベースで弾いたら? と考えてしまうのです。このプロジェクトを通してコルトレーンから限りなくエネルギーをもらいました。










JT:小橋さんは、これまでさまざまなヨーロッパのジャズ・ミュージシャンと共演していますが、彼らの ”ヨーロッパ的ジャズ奏法に影響されたと思いますか?





Part 3








JT:トニーの「オーヴァーウォーター Overwater」という姓にとても興味があるのですが、家族の背景を教えてもらえますか。

トニー:両親の家族は共に海に関係があったのです。母方の祖父はシェーブニンゲン(漁村。日本ではスケベニンゲンの表記もある)の出身で、漁師で船乗りでした。父方の祖父は船方でヨーロッパの河川で荷物を運搬していました。疏水(overwater) では川の両岸の船客を運ぶ渡しがいました。多分、僕の姓の由来はその辺にあるんじゃないかな。


小橋:高校時代のある日のことでした。姉の部屋から突然、楽しそうな音楽が聞こえてきたのです。なんて素敵な音楽だろうと思いました。ウェス・モンゴメリーの <A Day in the Life> だったのですね。その時からです、私がジャズの虜になってしまったのは。















稲岡邦彌 Kenny Inaoka 兵庫県伊丹市生まれ。1967年早大政経卒。2004年創刊以来Jazz Tokyo編集長。音楽プロデューサーとして「Nadja 21」レーベル主宰。著書に『新版 ECMの真実』(カンパニー社)、編著に『増補改訂版 ECM catalog』(東京キララ社)『及川公生のサウンド・レシピ』(ユニコム)、共著に『ジャズCDの名盤』(文春新書)。2021年度「日本ジャズ音楽協会」会長賞受賞。


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