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Kenichi Tsunoda Big Band: Savanna

David A. Orthmann By

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Despite the economic difficulties in sustaining a large ensemble, trombonist, composer, and arranger Kenichi Tsunoda has kept his stellar, Tokyo-based big band together for over a decade. Showing off the band’s versatility, Tsunoda presents a program of his own compositions, a combination of the First Movement of “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Chick Corea’s “Spain,” as well as smart arrangements of standards such as “Caravan” and “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” The well-drilled ensemble includes a number of able soloists such as tenor saxophonist Tatsuya Sato, flutist Seiji Tada, alto saxophonist Keiji Hori, and pianist Yuichi Inoue.

From abrupt changes in tempos and dynamics, to interludes of Latin percussion, to brass and reed section choruses without the rhythm section, Tsunoda’s arrangements are full of surprises, all of which make sense. For example, the melody of his lovely ballad, “Cherles River,” is passed between alto, tenor, and trombone, with the full band entering only on the last few bars of the piece. These changes create additional interest without breaking the mood or affecting the overall flow.

On Richard Rogers’ “My Romance,” Tsunoda accomplishes a near perfect melding of ensemble and soloist. Guitarist Yoshiaki Okayasu slowly engages the tune by himself followed by the band—minus rhythm—playing the same melody, sounding as if they are floating in space. Okayasu reappears with piano, bass, and drums, and plays the tune in medium tempo groove with accompaniment by the brass and reeds. After an extended improvisation, he fades out, the band returns once again slowly and sans rhythm, to play the melody one last time.

Track List:For Takemitsu; Savanna; Waltz For Eriko; Concierto De Aranjuez—Spain; Cherles River; You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To; Caravan; Broadway Jam; Manteca; My Romance.

Personnel: Saxophones, Flutes and Clarinets: Keiji Hori, Seiji Tada (Except on 5,6,9), Hideo Oyama (on 5,6,9), Yuji Kawamura; Tatsuya Sato, Dairo Miyamoto (on 2,4,7,8,9,), Takemi Ishikane (on 1,3,5,6,10). Trumpets: Paul Stephens, Mitsukuni Kohata, Shiro Sasaki (except 5), Shuichiro Ise (except 8), Masahiro Makhara (on 4,5,8,9,). Trombones: Yuzo Kataoka, Hideaki, Nakaji, Haruki Sato. Bass Trombone: Kazuto Kitahara. Piano: Yuichi Inoue (on 1,3,5,), Tomohiro Sunada (on 2,4,6,7,8,9,10). Bass: Shinichi Sato (on 2,4,7,8,9,10), Koichi Osamu (On 1,3,5,6). Guitar: Yoshiaki Okayasu (on 8,10). Drums: Ichiro Onoe (on 1,3,5,6,9), Tappy Iwase (on 2,4), Yasuo Tan (on 7,8,10). Percussion: Tatsuji Yokoyama (on 2,4,6,7,9), Gen Date (on 2).

| Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz | Style: Big Band


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