(Daiki Musica 2015)
Naoko Tanaka 田中菜緒子—piano
Koji Yasuda 安田幸司—bass (except 9)
Masanori Ando安藤正則—drums(except 9)
Yoshiro Okazaki岡崎好朗—trumpet (on 6,8)
Daiki Yasukagawa安ヵ川大樹—bass (on 9)
Tanaka’s trio recording is just what the best Japanese piano trios do so well–superb melodies, light touch, engaging and heartfelt tone, and superb acoustic sound. These songs by Tanaka and her trio is a gorgeous set of straight-on piano trio. There never seems to be enough of such works in Japan, as fans soak them up, but Tanaka’s trio has an elegance, sophistication, timing and approach that shows why the piano trio format continues to engage listeners, especially those in Japan, so passionately.
Tanaka wrote seven of the nine tunes, the other two songs coming from Gershwin and Chopin. Her ability to craft a song that fits the trio is startling in its rightness. All her originals sound full and complete, thoughtful and full of openings to explore more musical ideas and expressions. She knows her songs well, though, too, giving each a special workout on the carefully crafted solos, intros, comping and take-outs. Each and every note seems placed just right.
“Sign of Spring” is one of the standouts, with a calm and deep feeling that grows deeper and deeper from the beginning to the ending. The aim of the song seems casual perfection, and she hits that as well as could be imagined. “Cato-cha” has a bouncy Latin-esque groove that still fits contemporary jazz. Yasuda’s bass solo with Tanaka’s comping forms a striking middle passage in this cut, a fun, sharply done interaction.
“Saramoyou” slows down into a brushed-drum stillness that seems almost to crack at each turn of the chord. The melody is fragile and delicate, on the surface anyway, underneath is a tensile set of surfaces that hold tight together. “Wall Street Blues” pushes that delicacy aside and digs deep for a romping blues number with varying tempos—all hard driving ones. The trio works together as a tightly tuned engine of musical ideas.
Trumpeter Yoshiro Okazaki comes on board for two tracks, adding his inimitable trumpet to the proceedings and fitting in perfectly. The Chopin Nocturne that closes out the CD is an excellent choice, as it brings into focus the careful, virtuosic approach to the music Tanaka is so good at. The recording is also of high quality, making it an excellent choice for a high-quality stereo system, ensuring it will become a regular on the top-quality systems at Tokyo’s many jazz kissaten. While some jazz fans might wonder, why another jazz trio? Tanaka gives them a wonderful answer.
Naoko Tanaka Homepage