In a dim room in a restaurant in Chico, a sleek, black electronic piano sits near a black bass guitar. Great jazz isn’t found only in New Orleans or Montreal. Chico’s freshest jazz band, the Shigemi Minetaka Trio, plays jazz originals. The trio was formerly called the Scott Cummings Trio, but in February Cummings left Chico and Minetaka took over. Her eyes open wide and her breath quickens as her fingers dance on the electric piano.
When did you start playing the music?
In 1999 I started playing the flute in Montreal, where jazz festivals thrive. Then, my husband was an undergrad student. I shared a room with my husband in a one-bedroom apartment there, and while he went to school, I killed some time by playing a flute. After I joined the band in January 2003, I changed to an electronic piano.
How did you come to Chico?
I followed my husband. He found a position as a math teacher at Chico State.
How did you meet the band members for the first time?
In a Chico State music class in 2002; they were in the same class with me. Scott asked me if I was interested in his band.
What is your favorite place to perform?
I don’t have a favorite place particularly, but I want to play in a family-feeling atmosphere.
What was the most impressive gig for you?
On this Valentine’s Day, we performed in Black Crow. This was the best. I felt great energy inside me in playing.
Have you ever received fan letters?
Not really. But an old woman left a memo in a letter box after a gig. The memo said the gig was great. Fan support is a great incentive for me to play better.
Who are your favorite pianists?
Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau.
Does the band have any troubles?
We don’t have a drummer. The band is a duo. Substitute drummers always help us in a gig.
Do you get paid for concerts?
Usually we get paid about $35-$50. Only one time they didn’t pay for us. They said they ran out money, and we were disappointed.
What’s your goal?
I want to live on playing the piano in a large city like New York. This is my goal. I hope [to] play in a restaurant or bar with a grand piano.