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Keisuke Kishi: Midpoint Cafe


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Keisuke Kishi: Midpoint Cafe
Did drummer Keisuke Kishi, on a continent-spanning road trip, "get his kicks on route 66?" Possibly, though he—as anyone making the journey for the first time would—certainly had his eyes opened to wide-open spaces, stark, flat landscapes and pale blue skies.

Bobby Troup wrote an R&B song in 1946 called "(Get You Kicks On) Route 66." Nate King Cole covered it, as did the The Rolling Stones. Troup's lyrics say:

"Now it goes through St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri, Oklahoma City looks mighty pretty, you'll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino..." before they tell you to: "Get hip to this timely tip, when you make that California trip?"

That timely trip ultimately resulted in Kishi's Midpoint Cafe, a nod to the Adrian, Texas eatery that sits on Route 66, located at the midpoint between Chicago and Los Angeles in a surreal panhandle landscape featuring miles of flatness and endless vistas. The title tune reflects—in an ECM Records way—the feeling of the expansive countryside. The quintet consists of Andrew McGowan and Jun Sugiura on the pianos, joined by bassist Nori Naraoka and saxophonist Calvin Johnson, with the leader in the drummer's chair rounding out the crew. They create a collective soundscape that is eerie, spacious and serene, with a hint of the ominous lurking around the corner.

"Santa Fe" has more of a groove, a touch more brightness. "We Saw Him" was inspired by a destitute Native American man whom Kishi and his wife encountered on their journey, a man with a tale to tell, one about his tribe and community, and how they had been robbed of their land. The tune is disjointed, agitated and perhaps confused about one of America's original sins. And, like the rest of the music, it is an oddly beautiful statement as it examines and attempts to understand an ugly truth.

Throughout, Kishi displays a distinctive compositional approach. As it was with drummer Paul Motian, the Japanese drummer's vision is his own, unlike anyone else's as he grabs ahold of a cross-continent theme and shapes it into a compelling jazz statement, having apparently gotten hip to that timely tip.

Track Listing

Midpoint Cafe; Santa Fe; We Saw Him; Inside Utah; New Days.


Nori Naraoka
bass, acoustic
Calvin Johnson
saxophone, alto

Album information

Title: Midpoint Cafe | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Self Produced



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