4

Sumi Tonooka: NOW: Solo Live at the Howland Cultural Center

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Sumi Tonooka: NOW: Solo Live at the Howland Cultural Center
There are some jazz players who suffer an unusually large gap between their credentials and their renown. Pianist Sumi Tonooka is a case in point. She studied with Mary Lou Williams, made her recording début with Detroit trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (of Motown/Tribe Records fame), and was part of Philly Joe Jones's band. Two especially strong albums—Long Ago Today (Artists Recording Collective, 2008) and Initiation (Artists Recording Collective, 2010, with saxophonist Erica Lindsay)—exhibited a distinctive Williams-like piano style, with strong original compositions. Given this résumé, one wonders why Tonooka is not mentioned in the same breath as significantly better-known pianists.

This lack of renown seems not to trouble Tonooka however, whose attention is focused on crafting music of especial depth. NOW finds the pianist in concert at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, New York, performing a solo piano set. The program is broadly autobiographical, with the first disc honoring Williams' influences, from Duke Ellington to Thelonious Monk, and the second made up of selections from her own impressive songbook.

A long "Mary Lou Williams Medley" occupies the emotional and musical center of gravity of the first disc—of the whole album, arguably. The medley begins with a deliberate and faithful version of saxophonist John Stubblefield's "Baby Man" (especially redolent of two performances by Williams on her excellent live Free Spirits (Steeplechase, 1975)). Williams' own "Waltz Boogie" and "Dirge Blues" follow "Baby Man." Meanwhile, Monk's "Evidence," brightly played, is another tour de force.

The second disc traverses Tonooka's biography, with episodes of travel to Africa ("Sojourn 1 and Uganda") and high points of her discography. "Mingus Mood," a standout track on Initiation thanks to Lindsay's saxophone and Reid's bass, sounds, if anything, better as solo piano, and neatly echoes the Williams medley from the first disc.

A playful rendition of Eubie Blake's "I'm Confessin' That I Love You" concludes. Somehow, the encore—like the entire disc—manages to embrace a century of jazz piano while sounding as contemporary as the record's title: NOW, indeed.

Track Listing

CD1: I Hear A Rhapsody; Heaven; I'm Old Fashioned; Mary Lou Williams Medley (Baby Man/Waltz Boogie/Dirge Blues); Evidence; All of You. CD2: Phantom Carousel; Soujourn 1 and Uganda; Moroccan Daze; Mingus Mood; At Home; I'm Confessin'.

Personnel

Sumi Tonooka: piano.

Album information

Title: NOW: Solo Live at the Howland Cultural Center | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ARC - Artists Recording Collective

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Sun Trance
Sun Trance
Markus Reuter
Read Lies
Lies
Clemens Kuratle Murmullo
Read Prism
Prism
Conference Call

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.