It is obvious from the first notes he plays on “Twentieth Century Bebop,” the opening selection on his debut CD Deserted Island, that altoist Naoki Iwane is a highly original and major new voice on his instrument. While most young players sound like their main influences on their early releases, Naoki displays a very individual voice from the start, not only as an improviser but as a composer. He does not sound like anyone else.
Born and raised in Okayama, Japan, Naoki remembers, “Early on I heard classical music. I was enrolled in the Kawai Music School when I was four years old so I could be introduced to music and have fun with it. Then I went to the Yamaha Music School for ten years, studying classical piano and composition. During that same period I also took lessons on drums, playing with rock groups.” After graduation, Naoki moved to Seattle where he attended Seattle Central Community College. Most importantly, he took a jazz ensemble class on drums that led him to becoming very interested in playing jazz. A turning point was when he tried out a neighbor’s saxophone, immediately felt at home playing it, and bought it for $100 before the end of the first day. After graduating from SCCC, he transferred to the University of Washington to study computer science. However he became so proficient on the alto that he enrolled at the New School University Jazz program in New York City.