Toru Dodo: Dodo 3 (2006)
Based on the notes of this very engrossing release, Toru Dodo has a quirky sense of humor and would get a good laugh out of Dave Barry's book, Dave Barry Does Japan. His latest recording, Dodo 3, is so full of life, happiness, humor, fine compositions and just plain good playing as to set it apart from run-of-the-mill piano trio records.
Since the tunes are predominantly originals (except for Cedar Walton's "Bolivia," "My Romance," by Richard Rodgers, and an arrangement of a theme from Japanese TV), it is easier to judge Dodo's originality. While records of standards by any player can give the listener insight into the player's mind, (see, for instance, Loren Stillman's 2006 Steeplechase release, Trio Alto Volume 1) originals, while having no benchmark so to speak, allow a much deeper look into an artist's musical persona.
After winning the Berklee College of Music Performance Award in 1996 and the Herb Pomeroy Award in 1997, Dodo moved to New York City in 1998. Indeed, "NYUCS" (New York Underground Car Service) is his paean to the city and brings together many interesting aspects of Dodo's style. Weaving in recorded train announcements and subway sounds, the music rushes forward in fits and starts, almost demonically supported by bassist Joseph Lapore and drummer Rodney Green. The track brims with energy and provides a good musical picture of the controlled anarchy that is the NYC subway system.
To these ears, however, it is the next track, "A Spiral Staircase," which is the most engrossing on the record, due to the mystifying scale that is used as its basis. Not quite major, minor or whole tone, the scale used really does climb and continually turn in on itself (hence, the title). The mood created is one that is very modern, eerie and yet completely logical, which keeps the listener constantly off balance.
Lapore and Green are an integral part of the trio and have an equal voice in the trio's sound, especially when not soloing. Dodo has clearly encouraged active participation of every member, so that while he remains up front when all three play, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Dodo in not afraid to play a standard, and in "My Romance" he shows us how a piano can actually sing, despite being a percussion instrumentone of the highest goals of a classical player. Full of emotion and communicating directly to the listener, Dodo's playing shows us a deep part of who he is. Surrounding this particular standard with his originals is very effective and the contrast focuses the listener's attention.
Dodo, as evidenced on Dodo 3, clearly deserves greater recognition, which cannot help but happen even if he lives in New York City but roots for the Boston Red Sox! Recommended.
Track Listing: R or B; Bolivia; Boneless & Skinless; Inside Bubbles; NYUCS (New York Underground Car Service); A Spiral Escalator; Arabesuque; Giacomo Swing; Brush Pitch; My Romance; For Mr. M (Sazae's Theme); T. Dog's Theme.
Personnel: Toru Dodo: piano; Joseph Lepore: bass; Rodney Green: drums.
Record Label: Jazz City