Chie Imaizumi: A Time Of New Beginnings (2010)
Imaizumi began her musical career in her homeland of Japan, joined Berklee College of Music as a student in 2001 and released her first album, Unfailing Kindness (Capri Records), in 2007. A Time Of New Beginnings is a concept album; and while the narrative strand isn't obvious, this doesn't detract from the quality of the individual tunes.
The band is tremendousa hand-picked collection of great players who not only produce some terrific ensemble performances but who are also, without exception, capable of top quality solos. Randy Brecker guests on "Information Overload," producing a fine trumpet solo that fits the mood of the piece precisely.
"My Hearfelt Gratitude" is the album's most overtly nostalgic tune. From pianist Tamir Hendelman's bright and delicate opening notes, the composition conjures images of characters in a cozy TV drama, driving along a sun-drenched coastal highwayan episode of Columbo or Murder, She Wrote, perhaps. This sense of time and place is shared, to some extent, by the lovely "Today" and the joyous "Fun & Stupid Song."
"Run for Your Life" sounds like the overture to a lighthearted Broadway musical. Guitarist Mike Abbott drives the tune along with some deft chordal play, and the horn section is a delight trumpeters Greg Gisbert and Terell Stafford trade increasingly energetic solos and, after a powerful solo from drummer Jeff Hamilton, the horn section returns to end the tune with a rhythmic chorus that seems to demand the presence of a high-kicking dance troupe.
"Sharing the Freedom" was commissioned by the US Air Force Academy's Falconaires, and performed at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival. Alto saxophonist Steve Wilson's solo is vibrant and emotive, whole bassist John Clayton's brief solo creates a funky groove, but much of the arrangement lacks bite and, at times, comes close to blandness. Clayton's arco solo on "Fear of the Unknown" is a sad but beautiful performance, matched perfectly by Hendelman. By contrast, "Fun & Stupid Song" is a lively, smile-inducing tune that mixes rhythms and tempos, featuring a great solo from Scott Robinson, who moves seamlessly from sopranino to tenor sax.
A sense of familiarity and nostalgia pervades many of the tunes on A Time Of New Beginnings, but the album doesn't sound outdated or old-fashioned. Imaizumi's arrangements, and the musicians' enthusiasm and talent, ensure that the music is fresh, upbeat and, ultimately, optimistic.
Track Listing: My Heartfelt Gratitude; Information Overload; Fear of the Unknown; A Time of New Beginnings; Run for Your Life; Today; Sharing the Freedom; Many Happy Days Ahead; Fun & Stupid Song.
Personnel: Chie Imaizumi: conductor, arranger; Greg Gisbert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Terrell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Wilson: alto sax, tenor sax, flute; Scott Robinson: tenor sax, soprano sax, sopranino sax, clarinet, flute; Steve Davis: trombone; Gary Smulyan: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Mike Abbott: guitar; Tamir Hendelman: piano; John Clayton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums; Randy Brecker: trumpet (2); Paul Romaine: drums (2, 7, 9).
Record Label: Capri Records