Japanese-American songstress/flutist/producer Monday Michiru
entitled the album ENSO
to have two meanings: 円相 = a calligraphy illustration of a circle depicting the Zen Buddhist concept of an expression of the moment as well as the cycle of life. The other meaning 演奏 = means performance. I wanted to revisit my roots which started in classical music and give a nod to the sonic journey that led me to where I am today, to come full circle."
A friendship forged with Grammy-award winning producer/arranger Gil Goldstein
since her return from Japan to New York in 2000 led to the collaboration with Goldstein taking the helm on three tracks, including an original penned by Goldstein himself set to lyrics attributed to an Otto Luening work. We'd originally talked with a major label in Japan about making an orchestrated album all to be produced and arranged by Gil, but then the pandemic happened. Eventually I was able to get a small business loan and decided to go ahead with the project myself but on a smaller scale and with a different angle."
Additional collaborations include orchestrator and big band leader Miho Hazama
who lends her lush arrangement skills on two tracks, Brazilian cult artist Lucas Arruda who wrote an original song that Monday set lyrics to which he produced as well as played all the instruments on, Japanese Koto player Asuka who has often been a special guest on Monday's stage from Tokyo
to New York to London
spoken word guru Ursula Rucker
, and Monday's stepfather, the legendary jazz saxophonist/flutist Lew Tabackin
who takes a solo over Monday's arrangement of the Japanese folk song Ringo Oiwake." The first time I worked with Asuka, she had suggested this song, and as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to take a spiritual jazz approach to it. I really wanted Lew to give it a special vibe with his flute soloing and am psyched to get him on the recording." Other musicians include David Kikoski, Misha Tsiganov, Fima Ephron, Gene Lake, Keita Ogawa, Cole Davis, Freddie Bryant, Sean Harkness, and many more.
True to her love of creating hybrids and breaking conventional genres, perhaps the result of her bi-cultural mix as the daughter of jazz legends, NEA Jazz Master Toshiko Akiyoshi
as well as jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano
and Tabackin who helped to raise her, the album flirts with jazz, soul, Brazilian, rock and other styles, but somehow comes together seamlessly. This is a passion project from the deepest parts of my musical heart. The truth is it's getting harder and harder to record and continue on my musical path, not to mention the sense of mortality I think everyone felt during the throes of the pandemic. This album had to be something I could put my all into. It's also a musical love letter to my parents who have been my biggest source of inspiration and encouraged me since my childhood to this day, and to my son who I see blossoming every year as a young musician."