ã‚·ãƒ¼ãƒˆãƒ™ãƒ«ãƒ„ (The Seatbelts) is a Japanese jazz and blues band formed in Tokyo, Japan, in 1997 by composer Yoko Kanno and musician/producer Tsuneo Imahori. Since its inception, the band has gained international acclaim as a pioneering musical group and the originators of a distinctive genre in the jazz world â€“ noir jazz.
Yoko Kanno was born in 1964 in Sendai, Japan. During her childhood, she was exposed to a variety of musical genres but was strongly inspired by classical music and jazz. She attended a junior college and eventually became an accomplished classical music composer and arranger, working mainly as a freelancer on television and film scores. She also formed SSTV Egg, an electronica band. In 1997, Kanno would team up with Tsuneo Imahori to form ã‚·ãƒ¼ãƒˆãƒ™ãƒ«ãƒ„.
Tsuneo Imahori was born in 1953 in Miyagi, Japan. As a young adult, Imahori cut his teeth in the Tokyo underground music scene. He joined the band The Cold Days in 1972 and formed his own project, Ghost, in 1976. After a stint with Strawberry Garden, Imahori began to focus on his own solo work, learning the guitar in the process. Imahori collaborated with Kanno in 1997 to form The Seatbelts and he composed and arranged the majority of the band's tracks.
The Seatbelts provides a musical platform for both Kanno and Imahoriâ€™s creative energies. In 1998, they released their self-titled debut album, featuring the ground-breaking single â€˜Tank!â€™. This popular jazz instrumental track is often cited as one of the earliest pioneers of what would come to be known as â€˜noir jazzâ€™. Notably, The Seatbelts made numerous recordings with the late jazz trumpeter, Lee Morgan.
Since their initial debut, The Seatbelts have provided unforgettable music for many iconic anime series and films. The most notable of which would be Cowboy Bebop. This science fiction anime series was a commercial success, garnering The Seatbelts a cult following around the world. The band would go on to create theme songs for other TV series, such as Macross Frontier, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Kids on the Slope, Eureka Seven and Ergo Proxy.
The Seatbelts have performed extensively in Japan, North America, Europe and Australia. Yoko Kanno often leant her vocal performances to the band's live shows. While the majority of their tours focused primarily on instrumental music, The Seatbelts would often incorporate songs like 'The Egg and I' and 'Felt Tips' that featured Kanno's vocals.
In 2000, The Seatbelts released their sixth and final album Blue. This album saw them continue to showcase their eclectic noir-jazz sounds. After several live shows, The Seatbelts went on an extended hiatus in 2001 and Kanno and Imahori resumed their solo careers shortly afterwards. The band has made several sporadic appearances ever since and even held a one-off reunion show and mini tour in 2013.
The Seatbelts are cited as influential musicians in the Jazz genre by artists including John Scofield, and more recently, Thundercat. A testament to the quality of their work and their pioneering fusion of jazz and electronica. Without The Seatbelts, the jazz landscape would be significantly different. With their extensive discography and strong cult following, The Seatbelts remain one of the most distinct and pioneering jazz groups of our time.