Internationally acclaimed koto artist Yukiko Matsuyama and a few special friends – legendary drummer James Gadson, sizzling saxophonist Greg Vail, Def Leppard’s rocking guitarist Phil Collen and djembe drum master Steve Biondo – will present a “World Music, Rhythm-and-Blues and A Little Funk” concert at the University of La Verne’s Morgan Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 17.
Matsuyama will augment her own band with guests Gadson on traditional drums; Vail on alto, tenor and soprano saxophone; Vince van Trigt on bass; Biondo on percussions, Diana Dentino on keyboards; Collen on electric guitar and vocals and master taiko drummer Hiro Hayashida.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Advance tickets may be purchased at

The concert will feature the diverse expertise and experience performers possessed naturally and fine tuned while playing with pioneering and famous artists on world stages, award-winning albums and popular productions.

Gadson was a teenager when he followed in his father’s footsteps and picked the drums as his instrument of choice. He began his professional career in Los Angeles with the 1960s funk group Dyke and The Blazers and later became a founding member of Charles Wright’s Watts 103rd Street Band. Entertainer Bill Cosby helped him secure a recording contract with Warner Bros.

Legends he’s played with include Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, B.B. King, Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, The Temptations, Albert King, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, Joe Cocker, bluesman Willie Dixon’s grandson Alex Dixon, Beck, Lalo Schifrin, Blue Mitchell and Justin Timberlake.

Matsuyama blends world, jazz, new age and pop music on the koto, a 13-stringed, 7th-century Japanese instrument. A child prodigy, the Osaka, Japan native started her classical training at the Ikuta School of Koto when she was 9. She moved to Los Angeles in 1993 and began composing original works which blended world and western music.

Matsuyama is featured on Paul Winter Consort’s “Miho: Journey To The Mountain,” the 2011 Grammy winner for best new age album. She has performed at the Latin Grammys and on Shakira’s single “Antes De Las Seis” from the Latin Grammy-winning album “Sale El Sol.”

Matsuyama blends koto and world rhythms on her CD “Creme Brulee.” She has played with master pianists Reed Gratz and Billy Mitchell and drummer Michael Bennett. “Beyond The Space,” her latest project, is an international pop collaboration with Hirotaka Ogawa.

Vail plays smooth jazz, pop, rock, rhythm-and-blues, gospel and Christian music. He has recorded, performed and toured with Al Jarreau, Josh Groban, Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Billy Mitchell, Diane Schuur, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind and Fire, Crystal Lewis, Michael McDonald, The Coasters, The Drifters, The Platters, Jeff Kashiwa, Ronnie Laws, Tom Scott, Keiko Matsui and Grant Geissman,

Influenced by Motown, the Rolling Stones, glam and hard rock, punk and anything with a flair, Collen became a musical icon as lead guitarist of the multple-platinum-selling rock band Def Leppard. He was only 14 when a cousin took him to see Deep Purple, a concert that prompted him to start begging for a guitar. He got it at age 16 and started emulating the flashy, aggressive styles of Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore and Mick Ronson. His own creativity made him a pivotal player in Def Leppard, starting with the group’s 1982 breakthrough album “Pyromania.” He and best friend Steve Clark’s classic harmonious guitar playing became the band’s signature sound.

Hayashida was a featured player from 1985 to 1992 in Kodo, an internationally renowned taiko group. A composer, arranger, taiko director and award-winning drum designer, he has performed at the World Cup, UNESCO’s World Heritage and the Japanese Academy Awards.

Dentino has studied piano since she was 5, earned a degree in music from UCLA and performed with Peabo Bryson, James Ingram, Jeffrey Osborne, George Duke, Oleta Adams, Sheena Easton, Jon Secada, Regina Belle, Deniece Williams, Kitaro and Chante Moore.

Biondo comes from a musical family and started playing drums when he was 10. Within two years, he was skilled enough to be accepted into the Lynwood Diplomats, a youth drum and bugle corps. The diverse sounds of jazz, blues, Cuban and classic rock music he heard in the family home influenced his musical range. He later added African rhythms to his repertoire and founded ULV’s West African Drum Ensemble.

Imani Tate, staff writer

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