Drummer Yuko Togami's Dawn arrives as a beautiful surprise. It is the debut of the Japanese-born and now New York-based artist. Debut sets don't carry great expectationsone hopes for competence and a hint of a flair for the art form, the occasional creative spark shooting up from an otherwise acceptable but perhaps mediocre effort. For a newcomer to the scene, this would be a success. Yet Dawn rises up over the horizon with a bright glow that takes things well beyond the scope of the run-of-the-mill debut.
Togami's Dawn is a piano trio outingone of the more difficult arenas to render distinctivelywith keyboardist Takaaki Otomo's Fender Rhodes sitting in on one tune, and pianist Ben Paterson switching in on organ on another. The line-up shifts. Otomo and Paterson share the piano duties; Jakob Dreyer and Nori Naraoka shuffle in and out on bass. And yet a start-to-finish cohesion and a focus of vision pervades.
The Togami-penned "Noctiluca" opens the set. A pensive and inward tune that would fit well into a Bill Evans set, featuring Otomo's delicate keyboard touch and Jacob Dryer's big, warm bass soundand an almost subliminal-but-elevating percussion contribution (in the beginning; the energy builds) from the leader. It's a melody that has a classic feeling to it, that veers into a quirky wandering segment that shifts back into introspective loveliness.
"Got To Get There," another Togami tune, features Otomo's Fender Rhodes in a sort of light-stepping funk, and "Why Not?" prances with an appealing insouciance, Ben Paterson's piano dancing inside a rock solid rhythm.
"Firstbornes," a group improvisation, rambles into an amiable gallop before fading away.
George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," the first of three covers, has never sounded more beautiful. Delivered with supreme patience, it is a spare examination of the classic melody that can stand with most any version of the song you can find. Takaaki Otomo is as emotive as a pianist can be here.
"Stolen Moments," Oliver Nelson's opening cut on his classic album Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse! Records, 1961), doesn't seem like a vehicle for an organ trio sound. Ben Paterson makes it so with a muscular B3 breeze punctuated by Togami's sharp percussion and a deeply swinging groove.
The solemn "Autumn Path"on which Togami takes the piano chaircloses the disc on a thoughtful, reverent note, for a fine conclusion to surprisingly fine debut.
Noctiluca; Got to Be There; Why Not; Firstborns; I Loves You, Porgy; Stolen Moments; Chan's Song (Never Said); Autumn Path.
Yuko Togami: drums, piano (8); Takaaki Otomo: piano (1, 4, 5), Fender Rhodes; Ben Paterson: piano (3, 7), organ (6); Jakob Dreyer: bass (1, 2, 5); Nori Naraoka: bass (3, 4, 6, 7).