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Taeko Kunishima: Iridescent Clouds

James Nadal By

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There is an atmospheric element which Japanese musicians inherently weave throughout their compositions, giving their music a singular dimension which is readily identifiable. Acknowledged for her trademark lyricism, pianist Taeko Kunishima reflects upon the wonders of nature on Iridescent Clouds, offering elegant improvised passages encased in a meditative concept.

Accompanied again by Clive Bell, recognized master of the shakuhachi flute, and secured by the steady bass of Paul Moylan, the ensemble is augmented by percussionist Camilo Tirado. Additional exotic gradations are presented by Hibiki Ichikawa on the traditional three stringed Tsugaru shamisen. The utilization of field recordings by Jeremy Hawkins serves as a backdrop, the record flowing along its conceptual course.

The trickling of water opens "Blue Clouds," creating the sensation of a peaceful sojourn along a stream, lost in rapture. The piece has its moments of thoughtful flotation, as piano and flute drift towards the clouds. There is the distant chatter of passing people in the buoyant "In Search Of Time Lost," Kunishima carefully spacing her piano voicings to depict pensive hesitation while lost in a crowd.

Bell shines on "Iridescent Seashell," conjuring up the native uguisu bird. This Japanese Bush Warbler's recorded chirping interacts with the piano, a fascinating representation on the wonders of nature set to music. "Secrets," features Kunishima on solo piano, her instinctive classical inclinations taking over this tender composition. The bass sets the course in "Lighthouse In Winter," while Bell sends his flute out as a beacon, over the sea, into the mysterious night, waves gently splashing below.

"Oak Tree Leaf Rustles In My Mind," has shades of an Indian raga, set up by the cadenced tablas of Tirado, and bass bowing of Moylan. The suspension returns with "Everything Is In The Air," melodic passages drifting past the bamboo; Bell switching to the khene (Thai mouth organ) for a gypsy meets Zen moment of enlightenment. They close with "Volcanic Rocks," an Eastern melody played in western time, highlighted with high flying flute inflections and bursts, the journey ends on a rocky cliff, overlooking the valley below.

Taeko Kunishima was raised on Beethoven and Mozart, discovering jazz, she experimented with surrealistic improvisational options available in jazz harmony over her last three releases as leader. This fourth record proceeds along the same transcendent course she follows in her intellectual compositions and arrangements, maintaining her Japanese heritage of spiritual quest. While many artists attempt to seek personal redemption through music, by her particular mellow and evocative manner, Kunishima is already there.

Track Listing: Blue Clouds; In Search Of Time Lost; Iridescent Seashell; Secret; Lighthouse In Winter; Oak Tree Rustles In My Mind; Everything Is In The Air; Volcanic Rocks.

Personnel: Taeko Kunishima: piano, composer; CliveBell: shakuhachi, khene, Cretan pipes; Paul Moylan: double bass; Camilo Tirado: tablas, persussion; Hibiki Ichikawa: Tsugaru shamisen; Jeremy Hawkins: field recordings of uguisu, Japanese voices, rustling oaks.

Title: Iridescent Clouds | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: 33 Jazz

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