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When a classically trained musician arrives in NYC from Japan and falls in love with jazz it can often times result in impressive technique and a sterile sound. Saxophonist Saco Yasuma's Another Rain is her debut as a leader and flies in the face of that stereotype in a big way. Yasuma, trained on piano, switched to alto saxophone soon after her arrival in NYC from Tokyo and played in a wide variety of ethno-centric bands that included Afropop, Salsa and Brazilian. During this nearly two decade process, she discovered the ethnicity key to jazz's soul and blended it with her own rich heritage. By combining this sound with powerful visual imagery she staged elaborate performances that were integrated cultural happenings.
On this disc Yasuma plays both bamboo and alto sax with a group of musicians well-qualified to interpret these compositions' deep spirituality: Roy Campbell Jr. (trumpet, flugelhorn), Andrew Bemkey (piano, bass clarinet), Ken Filiano (bass) and Michael TA Thompson (drums). Yasuma's alto is throaty and she voices well with Campbell's trumpet over what at times is a surprisingly funky rhythm section. These compositions are substantial pieces that are heavy on melody but not short on freedom either. They can be decidedly urban or frankly exotic, the former driven by the rhythm section's groove and the latter by Yasuma's bamboo sax and intriguing voicings.
"A Wind Blew into My Hands gusts from her horn as a complete solo improv while "Fat Orange Moon, with poet Golda Solomon, recalls when word-jazz was hip. The title cut is a quite beautiful stylistic mix that mirrors the session as it alternately soothes and excites with soul, funk, blues and earthy autonomy.
Track Listing: Invisible Matters; Liquid Entity; Fat Orange Moon; The Fifth Season; Calm Water; Labyrinth; Straight Upwards; A Wind Blew Into My Hands; Another Rain.
Personnel: Saco Yasuma: alto sax, xaphoon (bamboo saxophone); Roy Campbell jr.: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andrew Bemkey: piano, bass clarinet; Ken Filiano: bass; Michael T. A. Thompson: soundrhythium percussion; Golda Solomon: vocals (3).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.