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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.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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