Yuko Mabuchi is thrilled to be part of this year’s LA County Holiday Celebration, an event she has loved for years. Yuko lives in Pasadena and spends a lot of time in South Pasadena, which she loves, especially her favorite local Japanese restaurant, Ai! “I find the neighborhood very peaceful and I find everything I need around here”, she says. Yuko initially came to the US from Japan in 2010 to do a jazz workshop in Alhambra and it was then she began her love affair with all of the San Gabriel Valley and ultimately decided to move here in 2015.
Yuko started playing classical piano at age 4, in her hometown of Fukui, Japan. Her mother is a piano teacher and as a child she says, “I was drawn to American music on the radio, listening to jazz and latin music. My father played American R&B records in the home and she says, “I felt it had a lot of rhythm, it was easy to listen to and made me feel uplifted!” Then she heard the music of Canadian jazz virtuoso Oscar Peterson, Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander, and the great Miles Davis and that was it. She says, “I wanted to learn jazz.” By this time she was a teenager and after graduating high school, she began attending a jazz music school in Kyoto. After the workshop in Alhambra, she returned in 2013 and it was then she met bass player Del Atkins and drummer Bobby Breton and the Yuko Mabuchi Trio was born. They soon received an offer to play their first concert at Pasadena’s Levitt Pavilion and have been playing at LA’s top venues ever since.
“To me, jazz music is the most exciting music in the world,” Yuko enthuses, “it is fascinating, free and fun! In jazz I can express myself in many ways. It’s not just playing music that somebody wrote. We are always creating while we are playing.”
This will be the first time The Yuko Mabuchi Trio will be in the LA County Holiday Celebration. “I have always wanted to be a part of it ever since first seeing it on YouTube years ago,” explains Yuko. For the performance, Yuko tells us she arranged a special Christmas medley especially for this event. First up will be the classic “Little Drummer Boy” by Kathleen Davis, followed by a contemporary “Christmas Time is Here” by Vince Guaraldi, and finally the Latin “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, all tied together in a jazz style with improvisation. Yoku is also proud to be wearing a traditional kimono for the performance created by her stylist, Toshiko Okawa.
The Annual LA County Celebration knew that art is essential and therefore has beautifully pivoted to bring us the performances in a whole new way. Filmed on location at both The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Jerry Moss Plaza and at sites around Los Angeles County, the beloved three-hour showcase of 22 L.A.-based artists will air on PBS SoCal starting at 3:00 p.m. PST on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2020) and simultaneously stream on pbssocal.org/holidaycelebration, kcet.org and Holidaycelebration.org. PBS SoCal will air an encore presentation that evening at 7:00 p.m. PST; KCET will rebroadcast the show on Christmas Day at noon PST. It was the first time most of these artists were able to perform together since the beginning of the pandemic, making for a joyful reunion and very special performances.
“The holiday season is about spreading joy and goodwill to all, which is so important this year, and we’ll do that with a special broadcast of beautiful and uplifting performances that showcase the talents and diversity of Los Angeles,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO, The Music Center. “Working with the same Emmy Award-winning team led by the program’s 25-year producer and director Kenneth Shapiro, we have created a vibrant new format for 2020 that also features artist interviews and county landscapes. This broadcast and streaming event truly is a ‘celebration’ of Los Angeles—of resiliency and of community—that we all can take pride in from the comforts of our homes.”
Returning favorites include Latin folk band Cuñao, a Hawaiian celebration featuring Daniel Ho Trio and Hālau Keali’i o Nālani with special guest Tia Carrere, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy, folklorico troupe Pacifico Dance Company, Gospel choir Praizum led by Lorenzo Johnson and Infinite Flow – An Inclusive Dance Company, a professional company of dancers with and without disabilities that uses dance as a catalyst to inspire inclusivity and innovation. Some of this year’s performers making their Holiday Celebration debut include an ensemble from the American Youth Symphony, a dance and music collaboration from Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles with Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuéllar, French-Chinese chanteuse Jessica Fichot, barbershop quartet Noteable and country-music trio Sean Oliu and The Coastline Cowboys. The show’s traditional finale of “Silent Night” will be a virtual collaborative performance, featuring Southern California Brass Consortium with a community choir comprised of many singers from this year’s roster of performers.