If there is one constant about Misako Kano it is that she is comfortable in two worlds. Born and raised in Yamaguchi, Japan, she studied classical and jazz piano at Kent State in the U.S. She earned her bachelor's degree, majoring in classical piano performance and music education and later got her master's majoring in jazz piano performance. She lived in New York City, had a residency at the Cotton Club in 1992 and then moved back to Japan.
Kano hit the road in her native land and interspersed those tours with visits to the U.S. where she played with a diverse band of musicians that included Thomas Chapin, Dave Liebman, Ray Drummond, Fred Hopkins and Gerry Hemingway. From the two comes a wide-ranging perspective that gives much of her music a vivid soundscape.
Kano's playing reflects multiple facets. She likes the repeated motif, which she shades subtly down the line. She can push hard, ringing changes with abandon and she can swing mightily.
She is not stifled as a composer, either. The album gets off to a happy start with the swinging "D.B.S.", on which Liebman's tenor cuts a deep swath. Time signatures shift enticingly on the title tune and there is some interesting off the imagination conversation between Kano and Liebman on "Tinge".
Standard time finds the melodic instinct of "You Don't Know What Love Is" given short shrift as Liebman shards the lines with angular, twisted notes and then Helias pulls down the middle with heavy bass lines. "Ramblin'" and "Broken Shadows" may not quite be standards, but both Ornette Coleman tunes done without Liebman, get off to introspective starts before settling down into a defined groove. The latter comes off as a more cohesive excursion, the melodic eloquence speaking volumes through Kano with Helias and Takeishi fuelling the emphasis with spirited playing.
Personnel: Misako Kano: Piano; David Liebman: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones; Mark Helias: Bass; Satoshi Takeishi: Drums