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NYTC New York - Tokyo Connection: Precious Live at the B-flat

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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It might be awkward and "punful" wordplay, but pianist and longtime Tokyo, Japan resident, Jonathan Katz—a scion of legendary Long Island music educator, Bill Katz—is and certainly will be by nature of this terrific recording—recognized as a very rising son.

Fronting a swinging and well-communicating rhythm section and adding the superb talents of saxophonist Dave Pietro, Katz and his jammer kids make their own statements (while being admirably reminiscent of the legendary Dave Brubeck Quartet) and blaze through nine superbly performed cuts on this, the third recording of the long-performing group. And, the live setting only adds to the excitement here.

Katz showcases his formidable keyboard technique, swing, jazz chops and compositional skills across the entire date. He's a highly-stylized pianist who plays in a classic and (very swinging) non-nonsense style, easily varying from chordal to sailing across the keys interpretative. There's no over-intellectualization emanating from his eighty-eights. He is also a superb accompanist who knows "toes."

From the get-go—a swinging 12/8, then 4/4 version of the Burt Bacharach / Hal David classic, "Alfie"—one can easily discern that this is a positively-energized, highly-cooperative collective of superior performers. "Let's Decide" is a Bop-ish burner with a stop-time bridge that leaves no doubt that Katz and Team can romp (and compose) with the best of the cookers. They do it again in spades on a searing rendition of "Summertime."

"Nugatory Thoughts" sends up a darker, soulful nighttime portrait. Noir and blue-funky, composer Pietro, who has a classic sound right out of the Ronnie Lang Hollywood School of The Dark Night, shines on this alto showcase. His solo forays here and across the date are inspired, and, as is the case with his cohorts, never disingenuous. His effort of the title cut, a gorgeous Katz triple-metered original with Classic shadings, is a joy.

Bassist Daiki Yasukagawa drives the group with energetic intensity. His near-vocalized bass introduction to Errico Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso" intrigues and sets the stage for the bossa-like effort. And, he demonstrates his robust technical chops and sensitivity on the melancholic arco intro on his original, "The Deep Valley," sent up ripe with both Asian and azure overtones. Drummer Eto is also stellar as he deftly navigates tempos, shadings and drives all intensely from Bar One to final applause.

Closing this completely enjoyable evening is Katz's "Gunma Hoedown," a hoot n' hollerin' "Rhythm Changes" Bop fest where all let it fly out of the barn.

Precious is refreshing, hard-swinging jazz offered by a group of superior talents. It might just be the perfect cup of aural sake.

Track Listing: Alfie; Nugatory Thoughts; Let’s Decide; Precious; Tathata; Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso; Summertime; The Deep Valley; Gunma Hoedown.

Personnel: Dave Pietro: alto saxophone; Jonathan Katz: piano; Daiki Yasukagawa: bass; Yoshihito Eto: drums.

Title: Precious Live at the B-flat | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Seven Steps Records


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