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Eri Yamamoto Trio: A Woman With A Purple Wig

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Eri Yamamoto Trio: A Woman With A Purple Wig
Pianist Eri Yamamoto was born and raised in Japan. but she has been a resident of New York City for over twenty years. She was there in March 2020 when COVID-19 shut down the world and then-President Trump began to call the disease a "Chinese flu." One day, while waiting to start an outdoor concert, she was confronted by a stranger who knocked off her hat, stepped on the electric keyboard she was carrying and called her one of the "(bleeping) Chinese" who had "messed up the world."

She played her concert that day but became so traumatized by the incident that for two years she only went out once a month. When she did, she used a face mask, sunglasses, a hat, and a purple wig to completely conceal her Asian identity. That experience is the story behind the title track of this album. Yamamoto sings in a disarmingly natural voice about buying the wig and how her disguise gave her a feeling of invisibility and safety as her trio's music sways along in an impishly tumbling swing behind her. She sounds vulnerable but at the same time, strong and defiant, feelings summed up in the way she sings the words of the chorus: "I'm just a woman. / Don't hurt me. / Don't hurt me."

Yamamoto also sings on one other track of the album, "Colors Are Beautiful." On the surface, this is a quietly dignified song about the range of colors found in nature, but it easily could mean the beauty of the different skin colors and races found in this world. The other five tracks here are instrumentals, capturing the intricate interplay between the leader's piano and the work of the other long-time members of her trio, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. They softly roll together like a Paul Bley trio on the elastic rustle of "Sounds of Peace," and playfully skip around like one of Ahmad Jamal's groups on "Shout." On "Internal Beat" the swaying rumble of Ambrosio's bass and the restless pattering of Ikeuchi's drums make a fine backdrop that allows Yamamoto to fly about and swirl through variations on a fragment of Charles Mingus' "Haitian Fight Song."

The entire album is excellent with the trio in superb form but what lingers in the mind here is the unguarded honesty and determined calm of Eri Yamamoto's voice as she sings the title song, a moving rebuttal to the anger and strife of recent years. This album is something special, the finest work of her career to date.

Track Listing

Challenge; A Woman with a Purple Wig; Ends to Start; Colors Are Beautiful; Sounds of Peace; Shout; Internal Beat.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Eri Yamamoto: vocal (2,4); Rika Yamamoto; Bruce Barth, Ikuo Takeuchi, Rich Lamb: chorus (4).

Album information

Title: A Woman With A Purple Wig | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Mahakala Music


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