Archive for August 2018

Geoffrey Keezer Trio: On My Way To You

August 8, 2018

American pianist and composer Geoffrey Keezer has a strong connection with Okinawa. In 2007 he joined Yaeyama singer and sanshin player Yasukatsu Oshima to record an album of Okinawan songs in a New York jazz setting that has since become a classic collaboration. Keezer had been a fan of Okinawan music for some time before that and his trio recorded the Sadao China composition ‘Koikugari Bushi’ two years before his meeting with Oshima.

Sadly for us, Keezer has not returned to Okinawan music but the door is always open for the possibility in the future. What he has done is to build on his already high reputation in the jazz world with more recordings and live shows. On My Way To You is a new album on which he plays piano and keyboards together with his working trio (Mike Pope on bass and Lee Pearson on drums) plus guest singer Gillian Margot.

The album’s ten tracks are a mix of songs and jazz arrangements, mostly of well-known pieces but also three brand new originals. What makes it different is the wide range of sources that Keezer’s inventive trio draw on. These include Thelonious Monk (‘Brilliant Corners’) and Stevie Wonder (‘These Three Words’) as well as Jimi Hendrix, Jerome Kern, and Michel Legrand.

Most satisfying of all is the closing track which manages to successfully combine and reimagine John Lennon’s ‘Across the Universe’ and ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Meanwhile Gillian Margot’s soulful contribution elsewhere adds even more variety and she provides some fine vocals on the five songs including Ewan MacColl’s much loved ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’.

On My Way To You is out now on MarKeez Records.

www.geoffreykeezer.com

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Tidanomiyuki – Live in Naha

August 5, 2018

The Ishigaki singer, songwriter and guitarist Tidanomiyuki gave a live performance last night at Sound M’s in Naha. Presented as one of her monthly series of live shows known as Starry Nights, this one was billed as a Special Starry Night as she sang with a band and with an invited guest – the Hiroshima-born singer and pianist Hanako Kimura.

Tidanomiyuki’s band included Yuki Irei (electric guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Yoshio Hasegawa (accordion, flute, trumpet). Her warm personality engaged the audience from the outset at this small friendly venue. A trio of songs from her recent album – ‘Mother tree’, ‘Understood’ and ‘Loves’ – were the highlights in a joyful set that ended with her own take on the traditional Okinawan song ‘Tinsagu nu Hana’. She sang this with just acoustic guitar accompaniment and managed to rework the well-known song into her own individual style.

Hanako Kimura joined Tidanomiyuki and the other musicians on piano for a fun-filled finale that no-one really wanted to end.

Yoko Ishikawa: Shami No Yorokobi

August 1, 2018

Last year Tokyo’s Respect label released the album Uchina Love Song which featured six different female singers. One of those was Yoko Ishikawa and she now has a debut solo album of her own Shami No Yorokobi. The title of the album comes from an original song from 1970 composed by Shizuko Oshiro. Ishikawa’s version is included here.

The well-known singer, sanshin player and teacher Shizuko Oshiro is from Yaeyama and she is also Ishikawa’s mentor. Her presence looms large on this album which Ishikawa dedicates to her and it contains several of Oshiro’s songs plus a selection of other compositions from the Ryukyu Islands, many of them traditional.

Ishikawa is from the small Okinawan island of Iheya but was brought up in Osaka where she learned to play sanshin as a high school student. There is a good balance of songs on this album, some very slow and others more exuberant and they come from throughout the Ryukyus. A standout track is ‘Chijuyagwa’. This traditional Okinawan song has been recorded often but Ishikawa takes it at a slightly slower pace than usual and her plaintive subdued reading makes it rather special. There is also a recording of the Amami song ‘Okinoerabu no Komoriuta’.

Nowadays albums can vary greatly in length and there are no rules. However, record companies in Japan seem to work under the assumption that more must always mean better. It’s therefore no surprise that this one runs to 64 minutes. No complaints about the quality but a little editing or trimming of the fifteen tracks might have produced a more focused result. But this is a fine debut from the seemingly endless supply of talented young musicians keeping Okinawan music alive and well.

Among the musicians accompanying Ishikawa are Setsuko Kikuyama (sanshin, sanba, hayashi) and Keiko Kinjo (shimadaiko). Ishikawa will play two concerts to promote the album. The first is in Naha, Okinawa at Sakurazaka Theatre (Hall B) on 29th September and she will be joined by the musicians from the recording. The other date is at Tokyo Minami Aoyama Mandala on 19th October where she will play with Keiko Kinjo.

Shami No Yorokobi will be released by Respect on 5th September.

www.respect-record.co.jp