Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CD Review: ‘Live At Scullers Jazz Club’ by Yoko Miwa Trio


Lately I find myself wishing I had made the decision to attend The Berklee School of Music instead of studying computer science and engineering. Of course, if I had I’d not be writing this blog, but looking for a ten year old to show me how to turn on the computer. But lately I have had the good luck to discover some marvelous musicians, from many facets of music, that are Berklee grads and instructors.

The beauty, and indeed, attraction of this, Miwa’s fifth release, Yoko Miwa Trio- Live At Scullers Jazz Club, is in it’s masterful execution and conception. It’s mood firmly planted in traditional post bop jazz, while acknowledging it’s debt to the standards – the blues (Art Farmers minor blues signature tune, Mox Nix), samba (The Brazilian guitarist, Milton Nascimento’s A Festa) and jazz-pop (Steve Allen’s This Could Be The Start Of Something). But then…

Staying within that same atmosphere of acoustic piano/bass/drums with long time collaborators, Greg Loughman (bass) and Scott Goulding (drums), she covers some unusual ground. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith hard rock fame has his Season Of Wither transposed into an evocative jazz ballad that sounds, in Miwa’s hands, as if it was written for jazz trio. I could listen to her treatment of this tune for hours on end.

“Season Of Wither” Yoko Miwa Trio

Another dip into the “popular” music world is Lou Reed’s Who Loves the Sun which gets an almost classical performance treatment. The tune is lyrical as the tempo moves around and the arrangement explores all the emotion of the words Lou Reed and Velvet Underground put into it the song so long ago. Her piano work is both  impressive and daring and her interpretation, again, makes the song at home in the jazz world.

If this broad spectrum of the music world is not enough, Miwa includes three originals that seem to bring these disparate worlds together. Mr. B.G. is a tribute to the hard bop pianist and composer, Benny Green. And, as to be expected, the song is both playful, funky and exceptional. Wheel Of Life is a circular in form piece that is almost wily in its simplicity seeming to go from calm to chaos and back again. Much as the title suggests.Then comes the introspective Silent Promise, which reminds me of a rainy day in its melancholy. Make yourself a cup of tea and watch the rain fall, calm in your self assurance that you can keep that Silent Promise. Yoko Miwa is not just a masterful performer but a modern jazz composer to be reckoned with.

The three originals expertly tie the jazz tributes together with the daring and new treatments of the Tyler and Reed tunes and I’m not sure I’ve heard it done so well before.Yoko Miwa Trio

Yoko Miwa has previously released four discs on Japanese labels over the past decade and she has been wowing jazz fans in Boston and gaining a large following while perfecting her voice and expression with the trio. It shows as they exhibit all the makings of one of the Best Jazz Acts in America today. You can check her tour schedule and don’t miss her if you are in NY on Friday, she’ll be celebrating the CD release at Miles Café (aka Somethin’ Jazz Club). If you can’t catch her live, or indeed even if you can, you’ll want to pickup the CD which is available at CD Baby as of today, Tuesday the 18th.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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