(Jam Rice 2016)
Yosuke Yamashita Special Big Band
Yosuke Yamashita 山下洋輔—piano
Ken Kaneko 金子 健—bass
Shinnosuke Takahashi 高橋信之介—Drums
Eric Miyashiro エリック宮城—trumpet
Shiro Sasaki 佐々木史郎—trumpet
Ryuichi Takase 高瀬龍一 —trumpet, flugelhorn
Mitsukuni Kohata 木幡光邦—trumpet, flugelhorn
Osamu Matsumoto 松本 治—conducting, trombone
Eijiro Nakagawa中川英二郎—trombone (7/28)
Yuzo Kataoka 片岡雄三—trombone
Junko Yamashiro 山城純子 —bass trombone
Atsushi Ikeda 池田 篤—alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Yuya Yoneda 米田裕也—alto saxophone, clarinet
Tetsuro Kawashima 川嶋哲郎—tenor saxophone, flute
Masakuni Takeno 竹野昌邦—tenor saxophone
Osamu Koike 小池 修 —baritone saxophone
It might seem laborious to list all the members of this band, but in so doing, you have a roster of the best jazz talent in Japan. None of them are strangers to classical music or to Dvorak, whose “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor” forms the content of this CD, at least it seems to at first. Recorded live, the symphony runs to 53 glorious minutes of jazz-meets-classical music that is inspiring, energetic and brilliant. Leonard Bernstein said that this symphony was truly multinational, and Yamashita adds one more nation to that list–Japan.
The integration of jazz sensibility back into this work is also very clever. Written while Dvorak was teaching, composing and living in America, Dvorak drew inspiration from the music he heard in America at the time, including Native American and African-American music. The full play of late 19th-century country and urban musical forms and traditions is uniquely combined here. But on top of all that, Yamashita also reintegrates the music with marvelous arrangements by Osamu Matsumoto, and then adds his leadership, with all that he’s heard from his experiences playing in America.
This version of Dvorak’s work might be one of the jazziest ever recorded, and also one of the most interestingly conceived. By balancing jazz swing with pristine classical-level playing, composition with improvisation, and the influence of multiple experiences with a singular vision, it sounds both farther away than ever from the original, but somehow closer, at the same time.
The ‘old world’ band is clearly having a great time soloing on this ‘new world’ music, working their own voices and approaches into the fascinating arrangements. Every solo comes out fresh and fitting. The musicians are all veterans of big bands, but also of small ensembles of their own. Their experience flows into the performance, enriching the dynamics and broadening the soundscape with their expertise and vision.
This is “big” music on a grand scale. It does hone in on intimate solos and calm, careful passages, but keeps opening out and expanding with full-on big band power. And until you’ve heard Dvorak taken into free jazz mode (in the 4th movement Allegro con fuoco), you haven’t heard Dvorak! And maybe haven’t heard free jazz, either! Yamashita’s work is always fascinating, but this take on Dvorak is a special listening experience. Very highly recommended.
Yosuke Yamashita Homepage
Jazz in Japan: Yosuke Yamashita Live Review
Jazz in Japan: Yosuke Yamashita Interview