Japanese kitsch-pop, nostalgic mixes of big band, swing, and general quirkiness, was probably best conceived by the Pizzicato Five. In their footsteps, though, came Ego-Wrappin', a group of jazz and blues artists formed around the core duo of guitarist Masaki Mora and singer Yoshie Nakano with a sheen of brass and randomness surrounding them. While the Pizzicato Five reveled in sheer quirk, Ego-Wrappin' have always kept a strong grounding in proper jazz forms, and can return to their core styles at will. Though they released a number of albums in their early years, beginning with 1998's Blue Speaker, they only achieved wide recognition with 2001's Midnight Dejavu. As they progressed, additional elements were incorporated into their sound, with bits of indie rock, reggae, and additional jazz finding their way into their hits. After relocating to Tokyo to take better advantage of the city's industry apparatus, Ego-Wrappin' have continued to produce albums with noteworthy success and the inclusion of yet more stylistic elements. The best-of compilation Best Wrappin' 1996-2008 was released in 2008, and hit number four on the Oricon charts. ~ Adam Greenberg

    Osaka, Japan

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