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As the guitarist in Fragile, the legendary Japanese fusion group of the early '90s, Koichi Yabori introduced many fusion fans around the globe to the thriving Japanese fusion scene. His Pat Metheny-influenced guitar synth work filled this trio with a wall of sound. Elevation, Yabori's second solo CD from 2002, offers a more mellow vibe than Fragile's raucous fusion, using a more traditional interpretation of the jazz guitar trio format.
Elevation shows two different flavors of Yabori's guitar work, acoustic and clean electric, yet both in the jazz trio format with bass and drums. The album begins on a mellow note with "Addicted to Jazz" and "Mime #1," both featuring Yabori's acoustic guitar. The timbre sounds like a nylon-stringed classical guitar, which adds to the somber vibe. Yabori doesn't switch to clean jazz electric guitar until the third song, "Elevation #21," which also features a snappy drum break. "Rat Race" offers the album's only moments of thick distorted guitar and chaotic fusion beats. After the clean electric ballad "9 P.M. Cruise," the acoustic guitar returns for the snappy groove of "Dig It." The CD concludes with two bonus tracks, including an electric guitar version of the album's opening track.
The electric guitar/acoustic guitar dichotomy contrasts these two sides of Yabori's playing. In addition, the order of the tracks lets Elevation start with the somber acoustic guitar, build through an electric ballad to the fusion stomp "Rat Race," then cool down with another ballad and more acoustic guitar. Yabori's composing skills also shine as sole composer of seven of the ten tracks. The playing by all three musicians is top-notch, including fretless leads by bassist Jiro Okadai and snappy snare work by drummer Hideo Yamaki.
Elevation is most likely going to have strongest appeal for fans of mellow jazz guitar and fans of Fragile who want to hear this more traditional side of Yabori's work. Look for Yabori's third solo record, Guess Where, due out this month.
Track Listing: 1. Addicted to Jazz;
2. Mime #1;
3. Elevation #21;
5. Rat Race;
6. No Crunch;
7. 9 P.M. Cruise;
8. Dig It;
9. Addicted to Jazz (Electric Version);
10. Autumn Leaves.
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.