Polyblog No. 1 – Introducing Yuma Uesaka

I’m an improviser and a composer. Coming from a jazz background, a lot of what I do is heavily influenced by that tradition, but I try not to limit myself to that community, methodology, or aesthetics. I feel this is true with a lot of Polyfold members, so I’ll elaborate and say that I specialize in woodwind instruments such as saxophone, clarinet, and flute.


I’m inspired by the community of artists that surrounds me including my peers in Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles; learning about the musical aesthetics of various cultures around the world; the manifestation of balance in nature, art, and logic; the exploration of extremes; and seeing things from both micro and macro perspectives.


During my time at University of Michigan, I had the pleasure of studying with Geri Allen, Robert Hurst, and Andrew Bishop. They are all tremendously experienced, and they imparted considerable knowledge. Beyond receiving technical knowledge, simply witnessing the commitment to their craft was a huge source of energy and motivation. As far as my mentors out here in New York City (I’ve been based in NYC since 2014), I’d like to think of Jeff Lederer as a mentor. I met him back in Michigan when he was on tour with the Matt Wilson Quartet. Jeff has been incredibly supportive of my career here in NYC and has called me to play with him on various occasions. He also introduced me to his contemporaries; for example, I met Andrew D’Angelo through Jeff, and now I occasionally go over to his apartment for the salon he hosts every few months.


Currently, I have the Yuma Uesaka Quartet, which is my go to band for exploring the iconic jazz quartet sound. The main focus of this group is spontaneous interactions between the band members in the context of cyclical form, melody, harmony, and rhythm. A lot of my influences end up manifesting themselves in writing for this group. For example, Bhakti was inspired by my study of Carnatic music, and Ma comes from my exploration of Japanese traditional music.  Aside from the quartet, I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time practicing the bass clarinet, and I’ve been thinking about a new project focused around the sound of that instrument. I have been hanging out with this amazing young bass clarinetist, Jasper Dütz, and we are trying to get the ball rolling for a two bass clarinet group.  If I could form the band of my craziest dreams, I would love to get together with Aphex Twin, perhaps with other improvisers, and just play freely. And then make Aphex Twin take a solo over a bird blues.
I’m playing a show with my quartet on May 12th in Brooklyn at a place called KD’s (408 Rogers Avenue). It’s a two set show starting at 7:30pm. It features Alex Levine on guitar, Sam Weber on bass, and Ken Ychicawa on drums. The info isn’t up online yet, but here’s the facebook page for the organization that is hosting the event.

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