Toru Dodo: Do You Like Cappuccino? (2009)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Listeners who look to a musician's collegiate trajectory for elucidation on his craft may find themselves at a loss, but Toru Dodo's biography gives us something to work with right away. Prior to studying at Berklee College of Music, Dodo attended Meiji University in Tokyo, where he got a degree in Economics. His intellectual preparation seems to inform his work as a pianist in an unexpected way: Dodo has a gift for clean, sparse arrangements that never sound bloated, and he is able to focus on minutiae without neglecting conceptual broadness.
On "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Air," Dodo's deft fingers oscillate between restlessness and pensiveness, producing two sensuous lived-in renditions that stand apart as album highlights. They are modest in form and execution, elegiac in ambiance and tone, ultimately anchored in a kind of gravity that permeates this record. The album is best when it is modestly itself; tentative attempts at breaking form resulting in hooks that sound too precious. This dissonance is apparent on "The Sahara." The beginning is beautiful, with Dodo alone on keys. David Eggar's cello is introduced teasingly and intensely; his is the sound that takes the reins. Dodo's playing becomes more gregarious at the wrong moments, overpowering the smoky ambiance, or fading into self-conscious quiet. It's an awkward miscommunication, tragic because it happens rarely on an otherwise solid disc.
"Miagetegoran Yorunohoshio" is the antithetical equivalent of the title track. The arrangement is meticulous and loving; it sounds like something to be found on the staticky, crackling records of yorelow-fi, gritty and soft. It contrasts with "Cappuccino," which seems too reminiscent of a sanitized contemporary style. It doesn't lack precision, but it does miss an immediacy and would not sound out of place in a commercial for the caffeinated commodity that is the album's cheekily-purported commercial muse.
The album's dissonances notwithstanding, Dodo is a pianist to note and his work on this album deserves accolades. His work with Eggar is especially promising, and the notion of future collaborations is a demand they must be obliged to supply.
Track Listing: Evidence; Wawawawa; Do You Like Cappuccino?; My Love Song; The Sahara; Miagetegoran Yorunohoshio; Arubabura; Manhattan Volcano; In a Sentimental Mood; Air; Impression of Aiki.
Personnel: Yasushi Nakamura: bass, electric bass; Joseph Lepore: bass; Rodney Green: drums; David Eggar: cello.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Modern Jazz