Palomar professor loves all that is jazz

Paul “Seaforth” Kurokawa breathes music.

The director of Palomar’s jazz ensembles and newly minted assistant professor in Music Theory, Kurokawa has toured the world, playing and singing at some of the most famous locals in the world, including Carnegie Hall. He now applies that wealth of experience instructing Palomar’s budding musicians in the ways of musical artistry.

Kurokawa’s first love in life was the trumpet. Growing up in a musical household, his mother Inez, was an accomplished singer and violin player while his father Philip played the trumpet, though Paul wouldn’t learn that until later in life. Kurokawa said he gravitated toward trumpet music from a young age and often made trumpet sounds with his mouth to imitate the music he listened to.

“When I was 8 years old I used to be-bop around the house making trumpet sounds and ask my mom ‘Hey, does that sound like a trumpet?’ and she’d humor me and say ‘yea.’”

Growing up in L.A., Kurokawa said he was exposed to a cornucopia of musical genres like rock and roll, soul and American pop. It wasn’t until he was 11 when his stepfather Julius introduced him to jazz that his life-long love of that form of musical expression began. Now Kurokawa owns over 3,000 records and says with a laugh that he can probably name 500 different trumpet players if pressed. But he said his absolute favorite is Clifford Brown.

“When you listen to a player like Clifford Brown, you feel like you can almost know him. Even love him. That’s real musical artistry,” he said.

Kurokawa, who is of both Japanese and Scottish ancestries, decided in his 20s that he needed a stage name. He finally found the inspiration he need while eating at a fish and chips restaurant.

“There was a map of Scotland and Ireland and on the Mackenzie coat of arms that said ‘Mackenzie:  Earl of Seaforth,’” he said. “I thought Seaforth, it’s kind of related to my Scottish side, I’ll use that.”

In addition to playing the trumpet, Kurokawa is also an accomplished singer.  He discovered he had this talent while attending church with his grandmother who he said was amazed at his ability to harmonize with the choir.

Kurokawa has since applied multi-faceted musical skills to perform around the world including venues like the Russian Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Hall and throughout Western Europe. He has even released four albums of his own under the pseudonym Paul Seaforth. His most recent album, titled “Something Real,” highlights his pedigree in jazz. Samples of some of his professional work can be found on his website, paulseaforth.com.

Kurokawa toured for 20 years and still does occasionally. Considering his background in jazz, it’s not surprising that he wound up directing Jazz at Palomar. Edison Salvador, a baritone sax player who has been performing with Palomar’s Jazz ensembles for six years said Kurokawa’s approach to directing is much more grounded in theory than anyone he’s worked with before.

“He’s very academic about it, it’s very educating,” he said. “You can tell he’s very knowledgeable in all aspects of what we do.”

Not to be limited to Jazz, Kurokawa said he is a fan of all sorts of music and has many opinions on the subject.  When asked if he thought music could change the world, he had some interesting things to say.

“Music certainly changes individuals and music has been used throughout history to enhance movements,” he said. “Can music save the world? Not by itself. It has to be connected to good ideas and intentions, because it’s neutral.”

As an instructor in music theory, Kurokawa’s approach to music is very grounded in those principles. He said he once learned the saxophone in six months just to join a band and even knows a little piano. Peter Gach, chair of Palomar’s performing arts department said he was impressed by Kurokawa’s versatility.

“He plays trumpet, saxophone, sings, and can whistle like a bird,” Gach said.

At a reception for new faculty, Gach said he was bragging to the board members about all of the things Paul can do and asked him to whistle a song called “Misty” in e-flat.

“I was kind of teasing him to see if he could whistle it in the right key, and he did,” Gach said.

Despite being multi-talented, Kurokawa considers himself to be an innate trumpet player and said that he constantly has music on his mind. If he isn’t humming something or improvising a song, he’s listening to something. He compared a world without music to being trapped in 120-degree desert.

“My wife likes to say that I breathe music,” he said. “I have music going on in my head pretty much all the time. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Author: Shaun Kahmann

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