Part I: Foundation (1992-1996)
Osaka Monaurail was formed in 1992 by Ryo Nakata when all the members were students at Osaka University and were members of the same jazz society where they played jazz, especially the music of Count Basie. Nakata recalls "Our team then was known as one of the best university/college bands when it comes to playing Count Basie tunes. I was playing the forth trumpet part in the big band. However, after I had dropped out as trumpet player - I couldn't hit higher notes, I decided to do what I'd wanted to do ever since I was sixteen, which was to have my own funk band." The group was named after the 1975 funk classic, It's The J.B.’s Monaurail by the J.B.'s (misspelling intentional.) It originally held more than twenty people including many horn players, two guitarists and a percussion player, but soon after, the band was cut down to a 13 piece group. After a couple of school concerts, they had played in local bars and nightclubs in Osaka around 1994-1996.
Part II: Shout! (1997-2002)
Experiencing member changes several times, Nakata and singer Boo after their encounter in 1997, soon started promoting a regular bi-monthly Soul & Funk club party series entitled "Shout!" at Club Dawn, Osaka, in 1998. The flyers featured artworks from black cinema of the early 1970s, which was very unusual then and always attracted big crowds. The event Shout! promoted Soul/Funk/Hiphop acts such as The J.B.'s (including Fred Wesley, Clyde Stubblefield and John 'Jabo' Starks,) Dj Muro and many others in Osaka. 'Shout!' eventually became the name for the record label / music production company today.
Part III: Movie distribution (1999-2000)
In 1999 Nakata bought theatrical copyrights of two blaxploitation films: SUPERFLY (1972) and COFFY (1973). As an independent movie distributor he collected 6 million yen from his friends/investors and distributed the two films to 17 theaters across the country and onto video for the first time ever in Japan. Nakata was also involved in distributing/subtitling more movies afterwards: SWEET SWEETBACK’S BADASSSSS SONG (1971), HOW TO GET THE MAN’S FOOT OUTA YO ASSSSS (2004), WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1997), SOUL TO SOUL (1970), SOUL POWER (2009), and most recently EDIFICATION OF WELDON IRVINE (1977).
Part IV: RD Records years (1999-2006)
The group signed on RD Records in 1999 and released two albums WHAT IT IS – WHAT IT WAS (2000) and RUMBLE’N STRUGGLE (2001). Not long after, three 45rpm singles were subsequently released: New New Type Thing (pts.1&2) and two others. In 2003 the band moved to Tokyo and underwent a big personnel shake-up: five left the band and four were recruited in Tokyo to be a 9-piece band. They bought many vintage instruments and equipments from the 1960s, and a new band bus, which enabled them to tour with almost dozen people and all of their equipments, including the amps, drum set, microphone stands and all the uniforms. These acquisitions made it possible for the band to create the same vintage look and sound wherever it goes.
Nakata eventually started to build the band's own studio to complete the third album THANKFUL (2004). It was followed by their first live album EYEWITNESS TO LIVE IN HEAVY FUNK SYSTEM (2005), which captured the complete show in Osaka April 28, 2005. This live album includes 24 tracks and two hidden secret tracks, and features both many originals and covers: Soulful Strut (The Young-Holt Unlimited, 1968), Theme From Shaft (Isaac Hayes, 1971), Soul Pride (the James Brown Orchestra, 1968), Alligator Bogaloo (Lou Donaldson, 1967) and Mother Popcorn (James Brown, 1968). It also features two MCs: Pinch and Keb Darge, the founder of the Legendary Deep Funk movement.
Part V: With Marva Whitney (2006 – 2010)
In summer 2006 Osaka Monaurail toured six cities in Japan as backing band for soul legend Marva Whitney, known as Soulsister Number One from the James Brown Revue (1967-1970). Her hits include It's My Thing, What Do I Have to Do?, Unwind Yourself, Sunny, You've Gotta Have A Job and many more. Whitney came all the way from Kansas City, Kansas, USA to tour from up-north Sapporo to down-south Okinawa, in which she visited and did a show on the way to Vietnam with James Brown in 1968. Packing out up and down Japan, the chemistry between Ms. Whitney and Osaka Monaurail was so great that they ended up recording two albums (one studio entitled I AM WHAT I AM and one live), three European tours and two Japanese tours between 2006 and 2010. (Marva Whitney sadly passed on December 2013.)
Part VI: Shout! Productions (2006 – present)
Nakata left RD Records, of which he was one of the founding members, in autumn 2006 to revive the same Shout! Productions as an independent record label. In November, Osaka Monaurail went to Europe for the first time to play six shows in France, England and Germany. Since 2006 to present, the group has toured Europe once or twice in a year. In 2012, Osaka Monaurail celebrated their 20th anniversary by touring 34 cities in Europe, three cities in Canada and many cities in Japan, appearing at top venues, nightclubs and festivals including the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
Part VII: The Recent years
In November 2012, Osaka Monaurail played a show with Fred Wesley, the world's funkiest trombonist, whose carrier expand from James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic to the Count Basie Orchestra. It was one-night special show - OM played as a backing band to the man, and performed more than a dozen of funky classics by Mr. 'Friendly Fred' Wesley.
In 2013, twenty one years after the foundation, the group is more active than ever, playing 31 shows in Europe (in 28 cities in 7 countries), a first Australian tour, and of course many shows in Japan.
The group has experienced many member changes. However the most of the current line-up have been in the group for more than ten years. Osaka Monaurail as of 2015 are Ryo Nakata (vocals and keyboards); Kentaro Yamagata and Teihei Awaji (trumpets); Shimon Mukai (tenor saxophone); Dan Hayami & Yuichi Ikeda (guitars); Tsuyoshi Ouchi (bass); Soki Kimura (drums).