Dark Night, Bright Stars, the second recording by Vancouver, Canada-based pianist Sharon Minemoto and her well-knit quartet, has no need for unseemly frills or flourishes. This is simply clear, plain-spoken contemporary jazz, ably performed by Minemoto and her talented teammates.
The album's dozen numbers, all written and arranged by Minemoto, are tasteful and engaging, as is her work at the keyboard, which is never short of inventive and pleasing. The same can be said of tenor saxophonist Jon Bentley whose solos are consistently admirable. Bassist Darren Radtke and drummer Bernie Arai are similarly perceptive and self-assured, lending the quartet the aura of a working group, which it is.
The quartet is present on all but one number, "For Bob Murphy," Minemoto's lovely solo tribute to the late Vancouver-based pianist. Other dedications are to the late singer Natasha D'Agostino ("Alexandra") and Minemoto's partner in biking and other pursuits, Dean Wautier ("Bike Path"). As noted, Minemoto is a splendid writer, and her compositions are never less than charming. Having said that, neither is any of them more than utilitarian. In other words, they serve Minemoto's quartet well but any staying power beyond that is debatable.
The album's opening number, "As Luck Would Have It," sets the compass, as Minemoto favors moderate to leisurely tempos, at which she and her piano are most at home. That is fine as everyone thrives in that laid-back environment while Minemoto's tunes are pleasing to the ears. A buoyant and amiable session that is definitely worth one's time.
As Luck Would Have It; Alexandra(For Natasha); Letters From The Midwest; Bike Path(For
Dean); Dark Night, Bright Stars; Color Contrast; The Scenic Route; Supermoon; For Bob Murphy;
House From The Dream; Good Hearts; Changes.
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