January 14, 2018 at Alfie, Roppongi
Hikari Ichihara 市原ひかり—trumpet
Jun Miyakawa 宮川純—piano
Akiyoshi Shimizu 清水昭好—bass
Kazuaki Yokoyama 横山和明 – drums
Hikari Ichihara is one of the most creative and engaging trumpeters in Tokyo. Her unerring sense of arrangement and performance were clear from the opening notes of “Old Folks” in early January. That song kicked off the evening and the year with a slow, sad, sultry and spacious arrangement. It was a new year’s song for the band and the perfect opener. The band has been playing together for over a decade now and they were clearly pleased to start off the year together, picking up where they left off the month before.
The arrangement of “My Funny Valentine,” from her fifth album dug into a fast driving riff that was a different kind of valentine–energetic and propulsive. On her solo, Ichihara’s tone was ringing, with a fluid dynamic that accented both the simple feel and the complex suggestiveness of the tune. Her arrangements are full of expanded harmonies, and plenty of time for soloing. Miyakawa and Shimizu were always happy to take over for their solos and had much to say on every song. Miyakawa’s playing sounds like a much older, more experienced pianist, while Shimizu locks down steady, driving underpinnings on which the other three thrive.
Bassist (and pianist and vocalist and composer) Red Mitchell’s “I’m a Homebody” gave Ichihara a chance to sing. Only once her voice was heard, everyone wanted to hear more. The song has funny, ironic lyrics that let Ichihara show off her command of her voice, equal to her trumpeting, and her clear, strong pronunciation and power to shape the words into complex meanings. Her scatting solos were filled with intriguing sounds and flowed with one vocal idea after the next. Sing more often, please!
The original, “The Thinker,” showed off the quartet’s progressive, full-force approach. Everyone in the band contributed and connected. As with the arrangement of “Everything Happens to Me,” which started the second set, the modal approach seems easy, but as you listen, the quartet again and again pulled out powerful sounds from the passions and openings of the flow of possibilities.
The drumming came to the fore with these nimbler, quicker pieces. Yokoyama always knows how to integrate at several levels of the soundscape and his solos on the last two songs of the second set were dynamic. The quartet enjoys playing together so much, with so much energy added by each musician, that the quartet is way more than the sum of its parts. Ichihara is an essential musician to hear. Her ninth recording is on the way.
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