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With 1997's Emerald, Naoya Matsuoka commemorates his 45th anniversary as a jazz artist with a fully acoustic album. All nine tracks were composed by this exemplary Japanese musician, who confers an engaging exultancy that holds the attention with subtle grace and explicit ingenuity. It would not be too far fetched to presume that this exuberance stems from Matsuoka’s own realization that he has come a long way, and this album in many ways showcases his personal triumph.
class="MsoNormal">The first track establishes the atmospheric motif for the rest of the album, and rightfully so given that the album shares the same name. Matsuoka demonstrates his innate vibrancy, arranging a blithe and athletic fourteen minutes and thirty two seconds song that sweeps, climbs, and twists. “The DeepSea” proffers a converse disposition to “Emerald,” illustrating Matsuoka at two different ends of the spectrum. This track creeps along sinuously, exuding a likable ambivalence of quiet sensibility seemingly pregnant with passion barely held in check. The third track “Cross the Atlantic” proves to be a happy medium between the two, retaining and combining these contrary qualities to produce a Latin-inspired concoction. class="MsoNormal">“The Prime of Life” is truly exceptional, starting off with a somewhat nostalgic, unaccompanied piano arrangement that lends a delicate sense of satisfaction and whimsy before launching into a palpable demonstration of the aptly titled “The Prime of Life”. Although it still retains the established mood of the initial piano, the rest of the song accentuates itself continuously with the incorporation of each musical instrument into the piece. “Groovin’ High” illustrates less Latin influence than its compeers. Matsuoka may have had jazz club performances in mind when he sat to compose this cool and charming piece, as the song seems more fitted for a low lit lounge. “Nuestra Fiesta” proves the opposite, as its Latin-flavored nature seems more appropriate for swaying hips and timed steps. “Legend of Love” closes this album on a softer note, rendering it all the more memorable. class="MsoNormal">There is much to be discovered in Naoya Matsuoka’s Emerald. Whatever the occasion, whether private or public, alone or in company, this album will frame that experience with bold panache and gumption. class="MsoNormal">
Track Listing: Emerald; The Deep Sea; Cross the Atlantic; The Prime of Life; Groovin' High; Messenger; Nuestra Fiesta; Django Bop; Legend of Love.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.