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A Sense of Place

Geno Thackara By

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Music itself may be universal, but the circumstances of its birthplace (or places) so often aren't. Overt or otherwise, it can be fascinating how those factors don't just shape a recording, but become vital elements in themselves.

Yukari
Synchronic
QFTF
2017

There's no place like home for Yukari Watanabe. In her case that means Brooklyn, where she happily declares that "the impossible became possible" for her. We don't need to know exactly what that means; this musical portrait of her home is both bouncy and dreamy enough to let us feel her contentment nonetheless.

The flute isn't the first thing anyone thinks of when imagining the crazy bustle of a place like Brooklyn, but Synchronic isn't aiming to evoke New York City's chaotic side. Yukari and her fellow players are more interested in its arty and classy faces—the kind of neighborhoods that are free-spirited and accepting of the world's weirdos. The trio format brings the rhythm players' jazz foundation right in front, while the leader's sprightly fluttering keeps the overall tone a long way away from familiar or predictable. Even when looping and diving at a busy inner-city pace, the instrument's airy tone keeps a refreshing lightheartedness throughout.

Despite a few instances of that rapid grooving, the pieces here most often stay in a thoughtful mode—the trio's interplay is the main thing, and they're astute enough to make the improvised pieces almost sound composed. Thomas Morgan and Satoshi Takeishi made beautifully adept partners in this quirky dance. The three sometimes flit around each other crazily, other times sedately drifting or zigzagging like leisurely butterflies. It's an unfamiliar sound and unconventional lineup, and in these hands the results come out invitingly bright and playful.

Josh Hanlon
The Baytree Sessions vol. 1
Armored Records
2016

In this high-spirited work, Josh Hanlon is lifted up not just by the comfort of being (quite literally) at home, but having a gang of good friends coming over. A recording which no doubt felt like a cozy hangout more than a proper studio date, The Baytree Sessions vol. 1 shows a wonderful familiarity among the players that evokes the easygoing feel of a weekly night around the poker table. It's the kind of camaraderie that allows for good-natured competing and prodding each other to go one better.

The all-original tunes reflect the styles that influenced Hanlon while growing up in Canada—there's some familiar R&B and a tinge of folk—while his home base in Texas provides a dash of classic-rock soul and boogie. Hanlon often works the keys on organ and electric piano to enhance the lively cruising vibe, though spots like the buoyant Hornsby-meets-Metheny centerpiece "Key to the City Life" show that they don't mind slightly slowing down to enjoy the view either. The summarizing theme here is clearly one of celebration: let's hope the good times only keep coming.

Or Bareket
OB1
Fresh Sound New Talent
2017

Then there are some endeavors that can't be pinned to any spot on the map at all. For Or Bareket—born in the middle East, having grown up between there and South America, based in the musical melting pot of New York City—the lack of a geographic center was exactly the reason music became his life's constant instead. The bassist has absorbed folky sounds and rhythms from all those places, meaning that his worldly melange is rooted nowhere and yet everywhere.

Since rhythm is one thing that's universal, it's natural that Bareket gravitated to an instrument that can serve as anchor or occasional lead. His string work is as mellifluous as the addictingly twisty melodies demand; the smooth ambling bass lines often feel like small roller-coaster courses over the scales, always keeping the pulse and staying natural enough to lodge in the ear. African rhythmic intricacy, gypsy folk and the soul of the tango all coexist as equal flavors in this rich and fascinating blend.

The obvious highlights tend to be irresistibly bubbly grooves like "Shosh" and "Joaquin," which chug along briskly as the band stays in flawless step. However, OB1 offers plenty to dig into at any pace; the bass/piano duet of "Elefantes I" and the leader's closing solo show just as much compositional depth as the more obvious showstoppers. Bareket's omnivorous musical mind is as irresistibly restless as his fingers, and the results are wonderful to behold.

Tracks and Personnel

Synchronic

Tracks: Les Oiseaux; Synchronic; Celestial; Hurricane; Brooklyn Forest; To Be; Tasogare; 363; Union; Ocean Avenue.

Personnel: Yukari: flute, alto flute, bass flute; Thomas Morgan: bass; Satoshi Takeishi: drums.

The Baytree Sessioins vol. 1

Tracks: Pickmoney; The Trouble with Joe; Kindred; They Detect Motion; Key to the City Life; Abbah's Etude; Are Those Blue; Baytree.

Personnel: Josh Hanlon: piano, Rhodes (melodica, synths, vocals); David Lown: tenor saxophone; Paul Tynan: flugelhorn, trumpet; James Driscoll: acoustic bass; Stockton Helbing: drums, cymbals; Noel Johnston: electric guitar (4); Michelle Hanlon: vocals (7, 8).

OB1

Tracks: Patience; Snooze; Shosh; Elefantes I; Elefantes II; Misdronoth; Joaquin; La Musica y la Palabra; Shir Lelo Shem.

Personnel: Or Bareket: bass; Shachar Elnatan: guitar; Gadi Lehavi: piano; Ziv Ravits: drums; Vitor Gonçalves: accordion; Keita Ogawa: percussion.

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