Singer Monday Michiru on Aquebogue, Japan, and her upcoming Club Bonafide residency
In the late 1980s, Monday Michiru – the daughter of acclaimed pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano – first made waves in Japan as an actress. Her appearance in 1987 Japanese film Hikaru Onna led to “Best New Actress” honors and commercial endorsements. Monday moved onto her true love several years later, releasing her debut solo album Mangetsu in 1991. 25 years later, Monday remains a major label artist in Japan and an in-demand collaborator for jazz, soul, and dance music projects around the world.
For close to two decades, Monday has spent a lot of her time in the Riverhead hamlet known as Aquebogue. As she mentioned within our Q&A, Monday’s discovery of Long Island was somewhat of an accident. She had plenty to say about what makes that part of the North Fork so special to her, and kindly shared some restaurant recommendations.
On the career end, Monday released a retrospective earlier this month titled Portraits In Time: 2002-2013. She can be seen performing at Manhattan’s Club Bonafide, with residency gigs confirmed for May, June and July. For more info on all things Monday Michiru, follow her on Instagram and Facebook; readers that are in proficient in Japanese may enjoy her official website.
You moved to Aquebogue in 2000. What led to that?
MM: My then-husband and I were living in the city on the Upper West Side and we had a terrible flood in our apartment. I was with child and the sanitary conditions were not good due to the flood, so we escaped to a friend’s house on the North Fork in the town of New Suffolk. We had been toying with the idea of buying a house close to the city, but the prices were way over our heads. Simply out of curiosity, we decided to visit a real estate agent while in the North Fork, pretending to house shop. We ended up buying the first house we saw!
How would you describe Aquebogue to someone who's never been? Is it mostly wineries out there?
MM: I jokingly say that it's the countryside, and in reality it sort of is a cross between country and suburbia. I always explain how there are many farms around us and how lucky we are to be able to have fresh produce grown locally and with such care -- and also to have the water around us where we are able to either catch our own fish or visit the local fish markets that have super-fresh, locally-caught seafood. The wineries of course help too, and I have noticed in the 16 years that I have been there that the wine game has risen!
Fresh air, nice and friendly people...It's a completely different experience from living in the city or other suburban New York areas. I think it's very special.
I heard that you now split time between Aquebogue and Katonah. How do the two towns compare?
MM: I'm still finding my footing in Katonah, where I just moved to last year. I don't really spend enough time at my Katonah home to be able to experience it like a local, so it's unfair for me to compare. It seems similar in that small town way and the close communal ties people have with each other.
Do you have a favorite restaurant on Long Island?
MM: I don't really know the rest of Long Island, but certainly have tried many places on the North Fork. For the longest time, my favorite restaurant was the North Fork Table & Inn, but lately there are so many other restaurants that have come into play! I think right now my favorite restaurant is The Petulant Wino, coincidentally in Aquebogue! I also love Stirling Sake in Greenport, where you can experience authentic Japanese food using local ingredients as well as a vast and sophisticated array of sakes, definitely an elevated experience.
Have you ever performed live on Long Island?
MM: Yes. For almost a decade the North Fork has hosted the WinterFest in the months of February and March, where many of the wineries partake in featuring live music performances on the weekends. I have performed at some of the wineries during the festival for many years.
Aside from your success in Japan, you've collaborated with Basement Jaxx, Mondo Grosso and other artists as a featured vocalist. Did you consciously try to have different careers in Japan and the States?
MM: I don't think that I make any conscious decision to separate my career in Japan, the U.S., or any other country or territory for that matter. I try to be true to what I feel is my expression, but at the same time I am conscious of what a particular forum, venue, festival, etc. and its audience wants to hear from me. My music has a tendency to be spread out from jazz to Brazilian, to soul jazz to underground club, specifically house, etc.
If I'm in a club that is doing a house music event, I'm certainly not going to suddenly do only my Brazilian acoustic music! Or if I'm at a jazz club, I'm not going to suddenly perform one of my house hits! So it's more about knowing the audience regardless of the country you're in.
Career-wise, what's coming up for you?
MM: I just released a double CD compilation album called Portraits In Time: 2002-2013 on April 15th. As the title suggests, it is a compilation of music released during those years both as a soloist as well as a featured artist on others' projects.
I am also taking up residency for three months at Club Bonafide -- a small jazz club in Midtown Manhattan which opened last summer and is owned by Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona -- performing the first Saturday of the month starting in May. This is the first time that I am performing continuously in one club, so I thought I would take this opportunity to not only promote the new release, but to also change up the music touching on the various styles that I do on each day.
The first one, on May 7th, will be soul jazz with pianist Misha Tsiganov, bassist Fima Ephron, and drummer Adriano Santos. The second one, on June 4th, is my acoustic trio with Misha Tsiganov, acoustic bassist Hans Glawischnig and myself. Then the third and last one, on July 2nd, will be focused on Brazilian flavors with guitarist Freddie Bryant, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Adriano Santos. We're calling the series Trilogy.
I also have upcoming tours to Japan in July and again in September. More on the horizon in terms of both performances and recordings.
When you record new music, do you usually work off a home studio setup? Or record elsewhere?
MM: Since moving, I haven't set up my home studio, which honestly is quite bare. It's an old home, so the electricity needs to be converted and worked on so I don't lose things in the middle of the programming and recording process, which would be a horror!
So for the last couple of years I have been composing solely on the piano, which for now works because I've been working on mostly acoustic music. Programming is not my strong suit, but there are things that can only be done through programming, and I am itching to get back on that horse.
When you're not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?
MM: I am an avid cook and love to eat as well as experience interesting wines. Spending time with good friends as well as my son and dogs is, of course, a favorite past time. Reading...I don't do it as often as I should, but I go on binges which is dangerous because I'll stop focusing on work or other responsibilities. I love exploring new spots I've not been to. When money allows, travel.
Finally, what do you wish more people knew about Long Island?
MM: I don't want them to know how great it is. Let’s keep it a secret...