Ai San San: Love's Radiance is musical transformation of the highest caliber. It employs traditional and contemporary Japanese melodies and molds them into a marvelously arranged and performed jazz album. Traditional Japanese instruments enhance textural dimension.
The opener, "Antagata Dakosa," is vaguely reminiscent of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" and is a terrific straight-ahead burner that kicks in hard after Masaru Koga's muscular tenor saxophone calls. Noriyuki Ken Okada's gorgeous bass sings the melody of the title track over arpeggiated piano, taiko drum, and Kago's shakuhachi fluting. "Hinokuni Ryono" is a slower, triple-metered gem that ripples with folkish melancholy. The kato cries to open "Habu No Minato" and moves into an exotically sonorous piano and soprano saxophone tango-throwback groove. "Mura Matsui" is an animated "St. Thomas" calypso clone send-up to Sonny Rollins. "Hamabe No Uta," traditionally-flavored, longs for home.
If one were not aware of the fact that original Japanese themes present and past are the primary foundation of things here, the performancea brilliant onewould stand on its own. There isn't an ounce of forced or disingenuous transposition. It is genuine and excellent. There's intense collaboration and focus., i.e., "Summer -Theme from Kikujiru No Natsu" and the John Coltrane-Miles Davis hat-tip cooker, "Taiyo No Hoero." Percussionists Tana and Endo are superb on "Tsunagareta Tairyo-bata" -a 12/8 amalgam of traditional folk songs -before fine Hirahara and Okada solos. Horace Silver's "Peace" is re-imagined and a perfectly intense closer to this superior session.
Ai San San: Love's Radiance is marvelous music performed by outstanding jazz musicians, a tour de force of textural beauty, mystery and the Japanese paradox of simplicity and complexity.
Antagata Dokosa; Ai San San: Hinokuni Ryojo; Habu No minatu; Mura Matsui; Hamabe No Uta; Natsu;
Taiyo Ni Hoero; Tsunagareta Tairyo-bata; Kando; Peace.
Otonowa: Masaru Koga: tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, shakuhachi; Art Hirahara: piano;
Noriyuki Ken Okada: bass; Akira Tana: drum set, fan drums, bongos (10); Shoko Hikage: koto (4);
Kenny Endo: taiko and percussion (2, 4, 7-9, 11); Tetsuya Tatsumi: cornet (9).