No Bird, Ginza
September 8, 2016
Francesca Han フランチェスカ・ハン—piano
Takashi Sugawa 須川崇志—bass
Gene Jackson ジーン・ジャクソン—drums
Francesca Han started both of her sets at the intimate, sleek No Bird club with Thelonious Monk tunes. That’s telling, because from the first notes to the last, she kept digging down into the rhythm, harmony and complexity of jazz Monk relished, and set that as a mark to keep hitting all through both sets. Whether playing her own originals or audience-friendly standards, she delivered an accomplished, complete sense of jazz on every tune.
In the first set, her original “One Hole,” was tight and focused, yet with the right amount of frenzy to keep it exciting. The second set’s “Detour” worked much of the same strong, pensive territory, using the full potential of the keyboard. Both tunes were standouts in the sets, and you didn’t need to see the satisfaction on the musicians’ faces, or those of the audience, to know how deeply the music was sinking in.
Standards were just as impressive, though. Han’s version of “Body and Soul” found the perfect balance of melodic and passionate innovation. Everyone can grasp the melody, but then is taken for a melodic excursion through fascinating harmonic and rhythmic territory. That balance is a hard one to find, but with the backing of Sugawa and Jackson, Han was free to explore her own sensibility and play in her very original style.
Support from Sugawa was especially evident on a lovely version of “Blue in Green.” His arco bass was strikingly lovely, accented further by Han’s gentle backing. (The club has an especially good piano she knew just how to fully utilize). On “Count Yourself,” Jackson’s drumming came front and center. His solo was stunning. The trio’s tight, knowing interactions made you feel they should head right to the studio.
Whether updating “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Days of Wine and Roses” or re-investigating her own fascinating original compositions, Han makes songs sound like she wants them to. Individual voice is not something she pursues; it’s just something she has. You follow her bass lines, and then get lost in the rhythms, then find yourself surprised by an unexpected re-chording, and then she takes you into uniquely complex melodic flurries. Her delivery keeps every song fresh, candid and strong.
Han is relatively new in the Tokyo scene, but has a strikingly accomplished completeness, of sense, creativity and technique. It makes her sound as if she has been playing everywhere for a very long time. Let’s hope at least for a while, she keeps playing in Tokyo.
Francesca Han Homepage http://www.francescahan.com/