All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

5

Kaoru Watanabe: Néo

James Nadal By

Sign in to view read count
Nostalgia, in Japanese, lightly translates into natsukashisa, a yearning for something from the past. American born, multi-instrumentalist Kaoru Watanabe has reverted to his ancestral Japan for inspiration on Néo, a synthesis of dignified taiko drumming with the jazz sensibility of improvisation. Prepared with a degree in jazz flute and saxophone performance, Watanabe spent a decade performing and touring with Kodo, the globally recognized taiko drum ensemble, and has contributed to the Silk Road Project. This recording of original compositions, is a culmination of an artistic quest into creative music with shades of natsukashisa.

Taiko drumming can be traced back over 2000 years in Japanese history. It is intrinsically connected with battlefield applications, theatrical productions, as well as religious ceremonies. To achieve any level of expertise in taiko requires dedication to an extensive educational and communal experience, not only for rudimentary practice, but in its spiritual connotations as well. Watanabe mastered these essential elements, and performs taiko from a contemporary perspective.

Commencing with the hayashi (festival ensemble) leanings of "Bloodlines," there is an immediate sense of complexity as the flute improvises over the repetitive drums. The mysterious drama of Noh and Kabuki theater is imagined in "Dreams," as the glossolalia chanting raises the perception level into an illusory dimension of birds and wind. "Prism," with intense nohkan flute phrases, and odd meters, blurs the lines between ancient ritual and the vanguard, while "Chiru," (scattering of cherry blossoms) praises the deconstruction cycle of nature with a definitive folkloric cadence depicted with three taiko drummers.

The trilogy of "Kagura Gurui," separated on the disc, are arranged around a common pulsation simulating the heartbeat. Kagura originates in Shinto celebratory folkdances, and there is a continuous forceful momentum depicted in the pieces. An intricate harmony and rhythmic relationship is evident on "Together Alone," a piece with heightened flute representation. "Iki," brings back the incantations, though upon careful listening, they are multilingual voices of protest saying "I Can't Breathe," as Watanabe joins those raising awareness against grim social injustice. Sumie Kaneko is featured on the shamisen (three stringed lute) on the introduction of "Shinobu," a soothing lullaby with a compassionate yet varied undulation,

Watanabe bids farewell with "One," a solo performance composed for a cathedral recital with dominant Shinto intonations in the opening flute passage, a thunderous entry of the taiko, yielding for the flute, then a dramatic conclusion. Watanabe utilized shinobue bamboo flutes from the classical fue tradition on the recording, allowing tonal variations while maintaining the proper melodic ambiance desired amidst the dominant drumming. Néo is so ethereal that words to describe it skip like a breeze on water. It encompasses time and space from a culture that remains elusive and exotic, yet is audibly accessible in this presentation.

Track Listing: Bloodlines; Dreams; Prism; Kagura Gurui (Duo); Chiru; Together Alone; Iki; Kagura Gurui II; Shinobu; reverse; Kagura Gurui III; One.

Personnel: Kaoru Watanabe: shinobue, nohkan; ryuteki; taiko, percussion; Sayun Chang: taiko, percussion, vocals; Sumie Kaneko: shamisen, koto, vocals; Barbara Merjan: taiko, percussion; Fumi Tanakadate: taiko, percussion.

Title: Néo | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
  • Néo by James Nadal
Read more articles
Néo

Néo

Self Produced
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Humanities CD/LP/Track Review
Humanities
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Wild Is The Wind CD/LP/Track Review
Wild Is The Wind
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review
Fairytales
by Gareth Thompson
Published: April 21, 2018
Read Origins CD/LP/Track Review
Origins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2018
Read "Triple Double" CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by John Sharpe
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Sabiduria/Wisdom" CD/LP/Track Review Sabiduria/Wisdom
by James Nadal
Published: April 21, 2017
Read "Loneliness Road" CD/LP/Track Review Loneliness Road
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Stratus" CD/LP/Track Review Stratus
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 11, 2017
Read "Moksha" CD/LP/Track Review Moksha
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 28, 2018
Read "Heaven On Their Minds" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017