Chie Imaizumi: Unfailing Kindness (2006)

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Chie Imaizumi: Unfailing Kindness
To all but the most jaded of cynics, Chie Imaizumi's Unfailing Kindness is sure to provide many hours of comfort for the soul as this extremely accessible and yet deeply rewarding music washes away all that might ail it.

Imaizumi is letting us see her up close and personal as each tune translates her emotional being at various times in her recent life into music. The fact that this music is for large forces (ten players most of the time) makes it all the more remarkable, since it is light and limber with intricate arrangements that do not, however, sound congested or overburdened.

There is much room for soloing, and when they get the chance to fly, the soloists make the most of it. The feeling that leads to the solo is one, though, of the underlying music pushing the performer out front, or lifting them above the others, rather than someone just stepping out and wailing.

Imaizumi received her original musical training on the electric organ before she switched to piano, winning awards and beginning to record in Japan. The fact that she does not play on this record might seem strange but it is, in reality, part of the emotional roller coaster that the music represents. Among other issues in her life at the time, Imaizumi was afflicted with tenosynovitis, a painful repetitive stress injury, which forced her to stop playing.

Anyone who has been through this kind of thing, especially a musician, knows how devastating not being able to function can be. However, Imaizumi turned adversity into opportunity. Indeed, the sixth and longest track is named "Adversity" and is the most interesting musically as it moves through many different moods and emotions. Turning her talents away from the playing and toward composing and arranging, she now builds worlds of sound with the help of other musicians.

The album starts off with a bang with three very up tunes—"A Change for the Better," with its Caribbean rhythms, "The More the Merrier," which kicks back with a New Orleans backbeat, and "Unfailing Kindness," with its meter switching between 5/4 and 4/4. Things take a needed rest with "Lonely," in which Imaizumi remembers how a three month tour felt, but rebounds with the driving changes tune "Round and Round," before getting to the aforementioned "Adversity."

There are many subtleties in constant change throughout each tune, and an attentive listener will be rewarded many times over. The word is that actually attending an Imaizumi performance and watching her conduct her music is something else altogether.

Many jazz fans find music to be highly emotional, and Imaizumi's music exudes both optimism and overcoming difficult times, but mostly the joy of creating and being able to share it. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: A Change For The Better; The More The Merrier; Unfailing Kindness; Lonely...; Round And Round; Adversity; Another Day.

Personnel: Chie Imaizumi: composer, arranger; Greg Gisbert, Ron Miles: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Gunther: alto, soprano saxophone, flute, didgeridoo; Peter Sommer: tenor, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Alex Heitlinger: trombone; Mike Abbott: guitar; Jeff Jenkins: piano, Hammond B3 organ; Mark Simon: bass; Paul Romaine: drums; Manavihare Mimy Fiaindratovo: percussion; Jeremy Ragsdale: vocal (7).

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

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