It is well known that American jazz is very popular in Japan, which explains why so many Japanese musicians move to the United States to develop their jazz pedigree further. New York is a favorite place to chase one's passion for jazz as singer Taeko Fukao did, moving over in the early 90's. She now presents her fourth recording, the very tasteful Contemplation
. The album contains music from jazz greats such as Benny Golson
, Chick Corea
, Bill Evans
and Billie Holiday
, among others.
The uncommon standards featured here all have one thing in common; Taeko's own creative arrangements make them somewhat unique. A fixture in the New York jazz scene, the singer surrounds herself with three of the city's finest players, pianist Theo Hill
, bassist Francois Moutin
and drummer Victor Jones
, who form the core piano trio in backup support. Japanese koto player Sumie Kaneko
joins the band on four tracks.
A talented artist in many ways, Taeko explores the music on this project as a way of finding her niche in jazz, stating, "I love jazz because it's improvisational...constantly changing everyday life...seeking my own voice is my ultimate goal." The singer opens the album with her own arrangement of the Japanese-titled Cedar Walton
Jazz Messenger classic "Ugestsu: Fantasy," an upbeat quick-tempo burner perfect for a beginning.
The title track, a McCoy Tyner
composition, starts off with a very Japanese tinged flavor featuring Kaneko on the Koto (traditional Japanese 13-string harp) and develops from there into a straight-ahead jazz tune where the pianist and other bandmates weigh in on the most ambitious song of the set at seven plus minutes in duration. The vocalist's own composition "Gracious" is a warm and beautiful song in which Taeko reaches and demonstrates just how gracious her voice truly is.
The Japanese folk song "Hamabe-No-Uta," is voiced by the songbird in her native language as a ballad, providing bassist Moutin ample solo space. The leader's rendition of the Oscar Hammerstein -Jerome Kern standard "The Song is You," is certainly one of the keepers of the album. The Stylistics' pop classic "Betcha By Golly, Wow" and Bill Evans' immortal "Waltz for Debby," are two delicate and delicious treatments of these old familiar songs.
The voice and koto duet on "The Sun Died," Corea's "High Wire" and the Golson standard "I Remember Clifford," round out the session completing another vocal jazz album worthy of attention. Jazz singer Taeko, as she prefers to be known, is a soulful singer with a four-octave range who is quite impressive on many fronts. Contemplation
is an album of light vocal jazz that will not disappoint, quite the contrary. Well done!
Ugetsu: Fantasy; Left Alone; Contemplation; Gracious; Hamabe-No-Uta; The Song Is You; Betcha By Golly,
Wow; Waltz For Debby; The Sun Died; High Wire; I Remember Clifford.
Taeko Fukoa - Vocals;
Theo Hill - Piano;
Francois Mouton - Bass;
Victor Jones - Drums;
Sumi Kaneko - Koto,