LA Jazz Scene
October 2001
by Jim Santella

Performing with the same kind of elegance they've shared with countless
Southland audiences, Ron Kobayashi's trio has recorded this latest session
with "No Preservatives."  Natural-sounding and spontaneous, this one is a
real winner.  Pianist Kobayashi, bassist Baba Elefante, and drummer Steve
Dixon improvise over these original compositions with fervent passion.  This
isn't the kind of ardent zeal that builds swiftly and erupts frequently into
cascades or showers of rhythm.  This is jazz.  It's the jazz of Thelonious
Monk, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner and Dave Brubeck. Each member of the trio
participates equally.

Kobayashi has always enjoyed connecting with his audience through lyrical
melodies and shimmering cascades.  His improvisations add a sparkle.
Elefante, an expressive bassist, supplies agile phrases that would seem to
come from a much smaller instrument.  In his hands, the melodies flow
naturally.  On "Blues for Thelonious," for example, the bassist walks that
walk.  It's a stutter-step that oozes from the mainstream.  Meanwhile,
drummer Dixon handles fours with grit, while accompanying tastefully.  His
crisp drumstick action adds an integral voice to the formula.  This five-star
session from three of the Southland's finest, provides a fine souvenir of
what L.A. has in store for its nightclub clientele just about any night of
the week.


Orange County Register
Aug. 20, 2001
By Steve Eddy

"No Preservatives," the latest offering from the extraordinary pianist Ron
Kobayashi and his trio.  Ron, one of the hardest working and most dedicated
musicians on the local music scene, always delivers, in person and on record.
 This release is no exception.  It was recorded live in the studio, almost
completely devoid of overdubbing.  In other words, no tricks, no muss and no
fuss: This is how Ron, bassist Baba Elefante (is that a great name or what?)
and drummer Steve Dixon sound in person.  This trio has been together for a
good, long while, and it shows on the nine splendid, original tunes.  If you
define jazz, at least partly,  as spontaneity, emotional expression and
communication among musicians, you won't find anything better than "No

November, 2001
By Dave Nathan

It's a pleasure to hear an album that is recorded as it was played.  With
just a minor dubbing adjustment on one track, what you're hearing on the
latest album from the Ron Kobayashi Trio is precisely what they played in the
studio.  There's no "creative" mixing which, in my view, is akin to revising
history. Constructing something quite different from what actually happened,
which is the forte of many of today's so called young lions of jazz.
Kobayashi has also backed off from the smooth jazz foray of his last album,
although there are vestiges of it in "Are You There."  But even there, the
pianist's hearty improvising keeps this tune from falling into monotony that
often characterizes that genre.  "Blues for Thelonious" honors Monk with
jagged harmonies that were the foundation of such tunes as "Well You
Needn't."  Another impressive piece is bass player Baba Elefante's
'"Chromonktic Blues" where Kobayashi settles in a groove coaxing from it
every bit of exquisite sound the tune has to offer.  "In the Ozone" also
recalls some of Monk when he was working in a trio format.  This track gives
plenty of room for drummer Steve Dixon to show his worth, not so much as a
soloist, but as the driver of the rhythm.  Elefante sets aside the electric
bass on this cut to illustrate that he is an outstanding technician when
working in an acoustic mode.  As the last track, it finishes the album on a
very positive note.  Kobayashi continues to mature in his compositional and
pianistic skills and ingenuity as this recommended album so conclusively

Cover story from the "Orange County Register" Dec. 5, 1999

Karen Gallinger and Ron Kobayashi are two of Orange County's most gallant  jazz warriors, playing and singing their hearts out for audiences that are sometimes ignorant, unappreciative or worse. Gallinger plays some 180 dates a year, Kobayashi does even more - about  240.  The money's not great, and they see performers with far less talent getting rich. Funny thing, though: They wouldn't have it any other way.

Ron Kobayashi is the leader for sure, but when he speaks of The Trio, it's clearly with capital letters. It's not merely a musical group, but more like a living, breathing being. Kobayashi is on piano, Steve Dixon on drums.  The bassist has one of the reat names in all of jazz, Baba Elefante.  ("his real name is Calvin, but his brother couldn't pronounce the word 'baby' so he said 'Baba,'" Kobayashi chuckled.). 

Formed around 1993, The Trio is the fulfillment of a dream for Kobayashi, 37, of Fullerton.  As the saying goes, it's one of the hardest-working bands in show business. 

And he added, "I know it's a clich, but we're like brothers.  Even if there wasn't the music thing, I'd hang out with these guys.  "I'd always wanted to do a trio format," said the classically trained Kobayashi.  "My big influence when I was growing up was the Oscar Peterson Trio."

 You've heard of rhythm and blues, but rhythm and jazz? This is what Kobayashi and company do. 
He describes it as "jazz harmonies and improvisation, with the rhythmic aspects of R&B." You'll hear them at Steamers and Kikuya and other O.C. jazz hot spots, playing before a loyal and faithful following.

    Kobayashi was born in Los Angeles, moving to Fullerton at age 1.  His dad, who was in aerospace, was originally from Hawaii.  There, he played sax in various swing and bebop bands.  (Mom Kobayashi's instrument was the ukulele.) Thus, there was always music in the house - "My dad said he used to rock me to sleep to Count Basie's 'April In Paris.' 

Kobayashi's first instrument was the accordion, acquired after a guy came to the door peddling lessons.  At 9, he started playing piano, taking instruction from noted north Orange County teacher Dorothy Neece. In all, there were about eight years of full-fledged classical piano instruction. 

But he said he always gravitated toward jazz. 

At Buena Park High School, Kobayashi taught other students about improvisation and conducted the band."That was kind of when I realized that jazz was my calling," he said, though he never imagined making a living with music at that point Kobayashi went to California State University, Fullerton, majoring in communications and political science, "always with music in back of my mind." For his political-science internship, he went to work for the Orange County Human Relations Commission, and it was in his office there that the epiphany occurred. "I had this big poster of John Coltrane," he remembered. "I looked at it every day. 

Then, one day it just snapped. 

I kind of thought, 'That's what I ought to be doing.' I knew that I really had to give it a shot." And that he did, gigging around with various rock and lounge-type bands, playing restaurants, weddings and places like the Hotel Laguna.  And then jazz all the time."I'm blessed to have been making a living at music since 1982," he said.  "And The Trio - knock on wood - has been playing an average of two to four nights a week." 

The band has two CDs on Tustin-based Carpet Cat Records, "The Ron Kobayashi Trio" and "Exotic Places," both filled with invigorating originals by himself and Elefante. He said he helped start Carpet Cat "as a way to release our own stuff and several other Orange County artists' material.  It's a means to help musicians who have a hard time getting a record deal." There are now seven releases on Carpet Cat. 

But there could be much more of everything, and Kobayashi knows it. "I wish we could play more festivals, get to the next level of visibility," he said. "We're looking for a bigger one, but it's tough, because we don't get much air play. 

We really don't fit in with a 'format.' We're not totally straight-ahead, and we're not 'smooth jazz,' either.  The majority of our music has a funkier edge, so we don't fit into that niche." "I know I could make more money by playing the 'smooth' stuff, but ultimately, I wouldn't be happy doing it.  It mutes you as an artist." And, he added, without naming names: "I hear people on piano and other instruments, and I wonder to myself. 

I've been doing this for so many years, and they don't really seem to have the goods. Yet they're perhaps making millions of dollars." But meanwhile, like Gallinger, Kobayashi will find contentment somewhere besides the bank. 

He usually finds it on the bandstand, where his biggest  thrill is when he and the group really interact with an audience. "I want them to experience something, to connect with us emotionally," he said.  "The worst-possible scenario is for them not to react one way or another, or for them not to listen at all. 

Even if we do something over the edge and dissonant, and the audience gets an uncomfortable feeling, at least I've produced a reaction. "I'm very gratified that people are willing to come out and hear my original compositions," he said.  "That in itself is enough of a reward to keep doing it.  Even if just one person in the club says they enjoyed or came to hear a tune I wrote ...Wow!"

Orange County Register
By Steve Eddy

Orange County-based pianist Ron Kobayashi has kicked things into high gear 
with a bright, challenging new release. 

Much of the "modern" style of playing can be cold and mechanical, but these 
10 cuts (mostly originals) brim with warmth, enthusiasm and invention.  And 
it's such a tight little band - Kobayashi, bassist Baba Elefante and 
drummer/percussionist Steve Dixon have been playing together for quite a few 
moons now, and it shows.

A strong example of the invention abundant here is the trio's rendition of 
Sting's "Walking on the Moon."  It's not the most obvious number for a jazz 
treatment, but Kobayashi and company turn it into a tidy, hypnotic little 
track, and the playing burns.

Elsewhere, Kobayashi's 'Rainforest" features his most engaging playing on the 
disc - deft, fleet and full of ideas.  The guy has an amazing left hand.  And 
don't miss the folky-but-soulful do-up of "Change the World."

Those who crave standard be-bop licks won't find them on "Exotic Places." 
But if so much of mainstream playing gives you that "been there, done that" 
feeling, this is the place to look for a bracing breath of fresh air. 


L.A. Jazz Scene
By Jim Santella 

The Ron Kobayashi Trio is quite familiar to L.A. club audiences, particularly 
those who frequent Orange County jazz venues.  The pianist, along with 
electric bassist Baba Elefante and drummer Steve Dixon,  can be seen just 
about any night of the week somewhere in the area.  Comfortable with 
mainstream acoustic jazz as well as contemporary electronic jazz, Kobayashi 
has provided a little of both on this sophomore album.  The trio is exciting 
and offers foot-tappin' music that everyone is bound to enjoy.

Sting's "Walking on the Moon" has a slow blues-based rhythm and feel to it. 
Kobayashi has a natural feel for the blues, and expresses that through his 
left hand riffs and right hand lyricism.  Dixon and Elefante share equally in 
the trio's product rather than fall into stereotyped assignments.  The 
bassist is a true melody-maker, while drummer Dixon colors each tune with 
appropriate textures.  Elefante's "Crawfish Hygiene" and "Funk for Monk" draw 
from traditional blues roots; add contemporary "world beat" accessories, and 
offer something that appeals to a broad audience.  Kobayashi''s "Rainforest" 
uses imagery to place the listener in a Brazilian pastoral setting, complete 
with keyboard clouds, electric bass footsteps, and a light drum set rustling 
of the leaves.  'Exotic Places" provides images of faraway places through its 
middle-eastern dance rhythms, ethnic Asian harmonies, and worldwide melody. 

Editorial Review

The artist, Ron Kobayashi , April 19, 1999, a jazz trio with elements of r&b, funk and latin  The Orange County Register called this cd "a bracing breath of fresh air."  We hope you agree. You might want to check out our jazz version of Sting's "Walking On The Moon." Happy listening

This TRIO has Exotic Talant

Reviewer: finsprtexe from California      August 28, 1999
NEW BEGINNINGS is where this CD got the BREATH of FRESH AIR review. 
The tunes compliment each members talent: Ron Kobayashi exhibits his talent on keyboards electronically as well as highlighting it on the acoustic piano. His love for the music is displayed not only in the unique and inspiring rendition of Sting's Walking on the Moon, but in his originals as well. Remembrance is very enjoyable melodically.Baba Elefante utilizes the fretted, and fretless bass to convey his awesome technique and talent to critical ears as well as the recreational listener. Baba plays with an energy that the trio runs with. His talent is displayed in the ballads as well as the funky rhythm of Crawfish Hygiene and Funk for Monk... Got to check these out! Steve Dixon's rhythmic flexibility keeps the group tight (when it's called for, like on JAGG) and ...let's RON and BABA GO, when required, like Exotic places. Steve's consistent & unpredictable style, mixes well and make's the trio complete. The Trio on Exotic places displays a wide range of talent from Ballad, to Jazz, to Funk. This CD is a MUST HAVE item. Hearing them live is a musical event everyone needs to experience too! 

Outstanding compositions and a tight performance 

Reviewer: from Orange County, California      June 7, 1999
This gifted trio consisting of Ron Kobayashi, one the most fluid and talented keyboardist around, and bassist Baba Elefante bringing a color and sound to bass playing totally unsurpassed, and rhythmically speaking, drummer Steve Dixon is the best. Original compositions by Ron and Baba are sparkling and exciting. 

More to come...