PHIL NYOKAI JAMES is a shihan (shakuhachi master) who has been performing since the early 'Eighties. His teachers include Ronnie Nyogetsu Seldin and Yoshio Kurahashi. He is also trained as a composer in the Western classical tradition and often works as an improvising pianist.


Shakuhachi honkyoku and original compositions.

The tracks:

First Dream of the Ancient Wanderer
Finding Center (Kyo Choshi)
Mountian in the Sea (Horai)
Second Dream of the Ancient Wanderer
Finding Center Differently (Nezasaha No Shirabe)
Empty Sky (Koku)
Third Dream of the Ancient Wanderer
Wind in the Pine Trees (Matsukaze)
Remembering the Monk's Bell (Reibo)

 CD $16.50


This album is about place and about music in particular places, not just the music I play, but the entire soundscape. First places because they are womb-like or generative: the depths of a cave, an empty church, the wet fecundity of a frog pond. I used two instruments, a standard shakuhachi and a much longer deeper version of the same flute. Editing and manipulation of the sound were kept to an absolute minimum.

The tracks:

Father John
Coltrane, that is. Toward the end of his life he studied shakuhachi, and I hope one day a recording surfaces. (Alice? Ravi?) This composition is a few reverent breaths in honor of one of the past century's truly great souls, my endless inspiration. It begins and ends the CD.
Cave Songs One and Two
Slowly, tentatively sounding downward, finding resonance beyond thought. Both of these were recorded at the beautiful cave in Moniteau County, Missouri.
Journeys with Frogs
Sonically, the frogs own Missouri. From early spring to late summer their ever-shifting chorus energizes the night with a gnarled and knobbed electric music. I hung out and played this composition with the dozen or so species of frogs. They were among the best musicians I've worked with, and less slimy than some.
One of the oldest traditional shakuhachi pieces, Koku is often translated as "A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky." This version of Koku was collected and notated by the great Jin Nyodo in the early 20th century, during his travels from monastery to monastery as he attempted to revive and preserve the traditional Zen music. As with any honkyoku (traditional solo piece) I record, I play from memory, allowing the music to evolve according to the feeling of the moment rather than strictly following the score.
This is the oldest known shakuhachi piece. It is also one of the simplest, musically, and most profound. Playing it is always a journey for me, I always feel transformed by the time the last note fades.

 CD $16.50

Learn more about
Phil Nyokai James
On-Line Shakuhachi Lessons

Monty H. Levenson, P.O. Box 294, Willits, CA 95490 USA

ArrowRecorded Music Menu
ArrowTai Hei Shakuhachi Homepage
ArrowMain Menu