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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 22, 2002

Island foursome share passion for jazz

Honolulu Jazz Quartet with Azure McCall
at KIPO Jazz Night
8 p.m. Monday
Kapono's at Aloha Tower Marketplace

Illustration by Jon Orque • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bassist John Kolivas formed the Honolulu Jazz Quartet for a single, selfish reason.

"I just wanted to play music that I liked," said Kolivas, laughing. "Where no one could tell me, 'No, you can't play that.'"

Read "that" as jazz, a musical passion for Kolivas since small-kid time with his classical pianist mother and, especially, his jazz sax player father.

"The situation here in Hawai'i is that if you want to make a living in music, you have to play everything," said Kolivas, speaking from experience. In addition to the Honolulu Jazz Quartet — which launches KIPO FM's first monthly Jazz Night with a free performance at Kapono's at Aloha Tower Marketplace on Monday — Kolivas is a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra; plays on recordings by Keola Beamer, Kapono Beamer and Kealii Reichel; and teaches bass and music classes at Kamehameha Schools. And all of this while doing steady restaurant and nightclub gigs around Honolulu.

The jazz quartet was formed by Kolivas last June. Its members — in addition to Kolivas, drummer Richie Pratt, pianist Dan Del Negro and saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama — knew each other from running in the same local music cliques. Kolivas, Pratt and Del Negro had backed vocalist Marianne Mayfield together. Kolivas knew Tsukiyama from gigging around town.

Kolivas was searching for musicians who would be as passionate about the music as he was, and he became convinced Pratt, Del Negro and Tsukiyama fit the bill.

The group held its first rehearsal on a Sunday in July at Kolivas' Diamond Head home, when everyone was finally free of other gigs.

"We ran through a tune called 'I'll Remember April,' and it sounded nice," Kolivas said. "Then we did a couple of standards. Richie had his originals so we did a couple of his things. And that was about it. It just clicked and felt good right away."

The quartet's debut performance the following month attracted a packed house to pianist Rich Crandall's popular weekly Studio 6 jazz night at the Musicians Union building in Kaka'ako. The roomy rehearsal studio has been the quartet's preferred home ever since.

"Right now, we like situations where we play for people who are there to really listen to the music," said Kolivas. "At Studio 6, you can hear every note, because people are just sitting there and listening. It's a lot more fulfilling, as a musician, for creativity."

KIPO's Jazz Night offers the quartet yet another shot at a potentially rapt audience, but more importantly, a place for other Honolulu jazz musicians looking for fervent fans of the genre.

"And that's great, because there just isn't that much happening in jazz in town," Kolivas said. "And there are great musicians here."

The foursome's repertoire includes a mix of its own original work, as well as standards and rarely heard gems by just about every jazz musician that group members have admired. Truth be told, preparing a set list everyone can agree on is typically the quartet's most trying task.

"There's such a big list of tunes that we can do and we like, so it's really hard to narrow it down," Kolivas said. "We mix it up to make it more interesting. I think we'd only feel satisfied if we had an eight-hour concert."