Junko Moriya Orchestra “Play For Peace”

(Spice of Life 2015)moriya junko cd

Junko Moriya守屋 純子—piano, composer & arranger



This CD of big band jazz is quite unusual. Jazz musicians usually turn to passion or love affairs for inspiration, but this recording turns to Japanese history. Commissioned by Okazaki-shi, the birthplace of Ieyasu Tokugawa on the occasion of the 400th year anniversary of his rule, Moriya has made a set of recordings that swing hard.

The first suite of five originals were inspired by places, battles and sayings of Ieyasu, while the last four songs are standards. The liner notes are extensive, explaining how Ieyasu searched for peace, even as he followed the samurai spirit of war to unite Japan and establish the foundation for modern Japan. While the history and politics will surely find differences of opinion, the quality of the tunes and arrangements, as well as the musicianship will overcome any questions.

The five tunes from the jazz suite are interestingly jazz-like, but with hints and brushes of Japanese aesthetics. The way of playing on those five interrelated pieces, too, feels Japanese in a way that the standards feel firmly in jazz tradition. They have a drama that matches the drama of Ieyasu’s life and times, moving between hard-swinging upbeat passages and contemplative sections, through them all, the musicians show their virtuosity.

Assembling the band from the top shelf of Japanese jazz musicianship, these pieces would also be a delight to hear live, if only so the players would have more time to stretch out and improvise. The tightness of the playing is startling. Few other big bands are run with such exceptional focus and discipline, but in a way that swings hard.

Standout tunes from the five-song suite would be hard to choose, since the songs flow together like a musical-historical narrative, but “House of the Winner” feels the most comfortable, moving through carefully crafted sections and keeping enough open time for great solos.

“This is For Stan,” written for Stan Kenton and picking up on the cool intensity of his big band, is the standout from the four standards. The arrangements, all by Moriya, are exceptionally appealing. The fluid motion of the tunes, the just-right dynamics and the deep sense of what can be done with so many great musicians all make this recording big band jazz as it should be done. That the recording also harkens back to Japanese history makes it just that much more special.


Eric Miyashiroエリック・ミヤシロ­—trumpet

Mitsukuni Kohata木幡 光邦­—trumpet

Michael Bookmanマイケル・ブックマン­—trumpet

Yoshiro Okazaki岡崎 好朗­—trumpet

Kazuhiko Kondo近藤 和彦—saxophone

Hidenori Midorikawa緑川 英徳—saxophone

Masanori Okazaki岡崎 正典—saxophone

Andy Wulfアンディー・ウルフ—saxophone

Dairo Miyamoto宮本 大路—saxophone

Yuzo Kataoka片岡 雄三—trombone

Haruki Sato佐藤 春樹—trombone

Azusa Tojo東條 あづさ—trombone

Junko Yamashiro山城 純子—trombone

Osamu Koichi納 浩一 —bass

Junji Hirose広瀬 潤次 —drums

Yoichi Okabe岡部 洋一 —percussion

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Michael Pronko

1-5-17 Higashi-cho
Koganei, Tokyo
184-0011 JAPAN
Phone/Fax: 0423-87-7066

Michael Pronko
Phone/Fax: 042-387-7066