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Pianist Yuka Aikawa gets great support from The New York Jazz Gentlemen on All Beings in the Whole Universe, a disc that features seven originals and three covers recorded mostly in 1999 with one track harkening back to 1977. Though the disc bogs down a bit in the middle, it is a very listenable effort driven by a band that can instill palpable energy in a piece of any tempo.
That ability gets the disc off to a good start as the first two numbers are of a slow to moderate tempo. Both "Make a Move" and the title track are infused with a sparkling energy that belies the beat. "All Beings in the Whole Universe" is exceptionally catchy and features great flute work by Patience Higgins. The album picks up the pace for one number on "Orient Express," which chugs along with an energetic, engaging solo by trombonist Benny Powell.
Jump back to 1977 for track four, "Something to Tell You," which opens with sheets of flowing notes from Aikawa and takes the tempo back down. The tempo stays relaxed for the next several tracks, which might mask the quality playing going on throughout the group and from Aikawa herself. The group makes a play to reclaim the listener's attention at the end of "Minor Steps," but do so by chanting, "Yeah, yeah, minor steps, yeah," an odd moment on a disc otherwise devoid of vocals.
For the final three tracks, the band becomes a trio and explores music by other composers, including Duke Ellington's "Sunset and the Mocking Bird" on which they seem to be channeling the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Bassist Atsundo Aikawa and drummer Newman Taylor Baker tackle Jimmy Heath's "Home" on their own, while Yuka Aikawa takes a solo turn on Leonard Bernstein's "Lonely Town," mixing free-fingered runs with heavily chorded passages to deliver a lovely rendition.
Track Listing: 1. Make a Move
2. All Beings in the Whole Universe
3. Orient Express
4. Something to Tell You
5. Yuka's Dream
6. For My People
7. Minor Steps
8. Sunset and the Mocking Bird
10. Lonely Town
Personnel: Yuka Y. Aikawa, piano
Patience Higgins, tneor and soprano sax, flute
Benny Powell, trombone
Atsundo Aikawa, bass
Newman Taylor Baker, drums
Frank Gordon, flugelhorn
Satoshi Inoue, guitar