CHI "MR. GROOVE" SAITO Band Leader, Music Director, Composer
Instruments: Acoustic and electric guitars Electric bass, drums, percussion
Chi performing at Belly Up Tavern (Solana Beach, CA) April 2005
Chi - studio portrait
Chi Saito performing with the Panache Orchestra at the Plaza Theatre (Santa Clarita, CA 2011)
Chi Saito performing at Cherry Blossom Festival (Los Angeles, CA 2010)
Chi Saito, a veteran career musician/multi-instrumentalist from Tokyo, Japan, has had a keen interest in music since he was very young and landed his first professional gig at age 15 playing bass with the house show band in a Tokyo cabaret. Given the enormous amount of information, art and music that was pouring into Japan from all corners of the earth during the years that they were rebuilding after their devastating defeat in WWII while at the same time seeking their place on an increasingly integrated world stage, that meant that Chi had to be able to absorb and become proficient in many drastically different musical styles from around the world that he had never heard before on a very short turnaround.
He moved on to various Tokyo nightclubs playing guitar, bass and drums, and began composing and music directing for TV commercials by the time he was 18, moving into composing sound tracks for TV programs, and by age 20, began teaching bass, guitar, drums, and voice coaching. By his mid-20’s, he was recording with and backing renowned artists on national arena tours throughout Japan on all three instruments. After a brief retreat from performing to focus on developing his own original sound and style, he joined forces with violinist/bassist/composer Brenda K and formed his own group, “The Panache Orchestra” in 1998. They debuted at a major Tokyo venue in the fall of that year and released an EP of five of his original compositions in mid-1999.
In 2004 he relocated with Brenda K to the southern California area where he quickly established himself, performing at well-known venues and touring nationwide with various bands. Recent recording credits include work on various projects with members of Three Dog Night and the Doobie Brothers. Nevertheless, he wished to fulfill his dream of recording and performing the extensive repertoire of pieces he composed during his three-decade career as a player, so he decided to focus on The Panache Orchestra, which has been slowly but steadily gaining traction in the hyper-competitive environment of Los Angeles since its U.S. launch in mid-2008, releasing a double album, “10 Strings” at the end of that same year that features 20 of his compositions.
While Chi is a huge Beatles fan and also enjoys the blues rock made popular by Eric Clapton, the diverse palette of musical styles Chi paints with as a composer has its origins in his first professional job when he was still well short of the legal age to be in an adult environment as the bassist with the house bands of Tokyo cabarets, which included backing such diverse acts as traditional Japanese folk singers, revues of international favorites, jazz and even strip shows.
As the momentum builds, Chi continues performing and composing music with plans to release several more albums.