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Yoko Miwa Trio: Live at Scullers Jazz Club

Dan McClenaghan By

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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 show—done as a memento for the audience members this particular night—garnered 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.

Track Listing: This Could Be the Start of something; Wheel of Life; Mr. B.G.; Seasons of wither; Who Loves the Sun; Silent Promise; Mox Nix; A Festa.

Personnel: Yoko Miwa: piano; Greg Loughman: bass; Scott goulding: drums.

Title: Live at Scullers Jazz Club | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Self Produced

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