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.

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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Unification CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "In the Still of the Night" CD/LP/Track Review In the Still of the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: May 22, 2017
Read "Guitarist, Alone" CD/LP/Track Review Guitarist, Alone
by John Eyles
Published: August 5, 2016
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Is It Me...?" CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 7, 2017
Read "Mobiles Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Mobiles Vol. 1
by James Nadal
Published: May 1, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.