Sumi Tonooka: Now (2012)
The first disc showcases Tonooka's prowess as an interpreter, opening with the much-covered "I Hear a Rhapsody." Tonooka's version is bright, breezy, with a dancehall feel that slips into a quiet reverence on the segue into Duke Ellington's "Heaven," a tunelovely and profound, with a shading of the ground-bound bluesfor which solo piano seems a perfect vehicle. The familiar "I'm Old Fashioned" gets an unfamiliar reshaping as the pianist takes things up-tempo with a rollicking rhythm.
The set's thirteen minute highlight, "Mary Lou Williams Medley," blends saxophonist John Stubblefield's "Baby Man," often performed by the legendary pianist, with Williams' own "Waltz Boogie" and her earthy "Dirge Blues." If "I Hear a Rhapsody" is the dancehalla sunrise of sortsthis is the barroom deep in the dark night. Then, another dawn, with pianist Thelonious Monk's "Evidence," full of hope and wonder, gives way to the elegance of Cole Porter's "All of You."
The second disc features five of Tonooka's original compositions, opening with the haunting "Phantom Carousel," lifting the night into a concert hall vibe with its brooding and ethereal sound. "Sojourn 1 and Uganda" melds two tune inspired by Tonooka's tour through Africa. The music switches from a sense of tumultuous mystery to bright, splashing beauty, with the pianist at her virtuosic peak.
"Mingus Mood," with its mournful melody, plaintive rhythm and restrained anguish, is reminiscent of its namesake, iconic bassist Charles Mingus' "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat," leading into the gorgeous, light stepping "At Home" before Tonooka encores with Eubie Blake's timeless and playful "I'm Confessin.'"
Tonooka covers a lot of stylistic territory on these two discs, in a perfectly sequenced show, and plays with a rare spirituality and musical sagacity. A superb solo piano outing.
Track Listing: CD1: I Hear a Rhapsody; Heaven; I'm Old Fashioned; Mary Lou Williams Medley; Evidence; All of You. CD2: Phantom Carousel; Sojourn 1 and Uganda; Moraccan Daze; At Home; I'm Confessin'.
Personnel: Sumi Tonooka: piano.
Record Label: ARC - Artists Recording Collective
Style: Modern Jazz