Is live always better? Does the no second takes, out-on-a-limb aspect of playing in front of a live audience, and feeding off its energy result in the best recordings? It seems to work that way for Boston-based pianist Yoko Miwa on Live At Scullers Jazz Club
, a mix of tunes from The Great American Songbook and the world of rock, shuffled in with her own outstanding compositions. An original pressing of a hundred copies of the showdone as a memento for the audience members this particular nightgarnered such a positive response that Miwa decided to have the music remixed and mastered for a general release.
Miwa displays an impressive stylistic range. Opening with a rousing take of Steve Allen
's "This Could Be the Start of Something," the pianist and her trio mix a bouncy elegance with a full-bore forward momentum. Miwa treats the melody with reverence, riding a inexorable rhythmic wave supplied by bassist Greg Loughman
and drummer Scott Goulding
. Virtuosic but unrelentingly accessible, the pianist stretches out, taking eleven minutes to explore this Great American Songbook gem with glorious grace.
Miwa, in the manner of fellow pianist Brad Mehldau
, is no jazz snob. She doesn't limit herself to the standards. She covers Steven Tyler's (of Aerosmith) dark toned "Seasons of Wither," giving the tune sparkle, and turns in a pensively beautiful rendition of Lou Reed
's Velvet Underground song, "Who Loves the Sun?," featuring the trio at its most interactive.
Miwa adds three of her own top-notch compositions to the mix. "The Wheel of Life" rises and falls to mirror the vicissitudes, struggles, joys and sorrows of human existence. "Mr. B. G." is a nod to pianist Benny Green
and, through Green, his mentor Oscar Peterson
, with an ebullient groove and Miwa's exquisitely succinct touch.
Trumpeter Art Farmer
's "Mox Nix" shows off Miwa's ability to get deep into the blues and play with a muscular left hand percussion married to a lightning fast right hand, before ending with vocalist Milton Nascimento
's "A Festa." It's a saucy closer, with the trio immersing itself in a gorgeous Brazilian groove to wrap up a stunningly spontaneous live set, Miwa's best recording to date.