Infatuated with progressive rock groups such as King Crimson while growing up in Tokyo in the late 60s, Akikazu Nakamura at first took up the electric guitar, but after being introduced to the shakuhachi–an elongated, end-blown bamboo flute dating from 14th-century imperial courts–he decided to devote himself to redefining the ancient instrument’s role in contemporary music. By the early 80s Nakamura had not only mastered the shakuhachi and its playing tradition, he’d also broadened its capabilities by incorporating a new breathing technique and phrasing tricks appropriated from jazz saxophone. A genre-crosser with composition degrees from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, Nakamura has collaborated with jazz drummer Elvin Jones and percussionist Glen Velez, as well as Chicago’s own Douglas Ewart and Joseph Jarman, and his band Forest–as heard on its recent CD Neutral Point (JVC)–is putting a distinctly Japanese spin on the art-rock movement. Nakamura’s local debut at Ravinia, however, focuses on the historical progression of the shakuhachi, played solo and in tandem with the koto. Included on the program are traditional Zen pieces as well as intriguing modern variations by Tadao Sawai, Somei Satoh (a selection from the New Albion CD Sun*Moon), and Nakamura himself. Michiyo Yagi, also a world-class performer, plays the koto. Friday, 7:30 PM, Bennett Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Takeshi Sakai.