Saxophonist Doug Yokoyama Stops By

Jerry D'Souza BY

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San Francisco and the Asian-American tradition in music have made significant contributions to jazz (and all of its attributes for those looking beyond given parameters and taking comfort in them). Francis Wong, Jon Jang, Vijay Iyer and Tatsu Aoki are among those who have enriched the movement. Doug Yokoyama has been active on that scene since the late 1980s.

Doug Yokoyama/ Tatsu Aoki/ Francis Wong/ Jeff Chan
Zoo Music

The band gets off to an impressive start with an excerpt from the Glenn Horiuchi’s “Poston Sonata Suite” as they essay the composition with an innate sense of understanding and keep the harmonic structure pulsing. The symmetrical lines of the horns are cratered gently by an Oriental melody from the soprano, the counterpoint then divergent as each of the three sax men take parallel paths. The music continues to switch shape and structure, yet the passion is never lost. Quite another vista opens on “Albert Ayler Flying Through the Sky”, gospel and the blues crying their ware. Jeff Chan wields a broad tenor, lifting his convoluting voice to the skies as Tatsu Aoki scampers lightly beneath. Yokoyama on the alto and Francis Wong on the soprano add fiery buoyancy. A ballad does not hurt, and “70 by 70” fills that niche emphatically. Yokoyama using the alto fills the tune with an enduring beauty, his tone rich and lustrous. There is a looseness, and an airier atmosphere, on “Glad You Didn’t See This”. The pace is unhurried and this gives the musicians a wider ambit in which to rove. As they do so, they never let go of the core, they pitch their focus and revolve around with cries and yowls and spiky jabs, with Yokoyama the centrifugal force and Aoki the voice of calm. If this disc cries out for more, there is.

Doug Yokoyama
Thanks For Stopping By
Zoo Music

This album casts a spell of its own. The presence of the electric bass and guitar may describe another plane, but Yokoyama knows where the sizzle lies and he stokes it darn well indeed. As can be expected there is a kick and zap it comes personified in the body of a “Somewhat Drunken Sailor”. The tune loops and whirls pushed by Jimmy Biala on the drums his traps and bass setting the tempo and then John-Carlos Perea adds a question mark or two as he slides in short notes on the electric bass, an inviting opening for Yokoyama who swings in, soaked in a melody that is beguiling and bewitching. More drunks off the boat please, if this is what they inspire. Jen Shyu has a voice that gets attention and her wordless vocals elevate the funky “Jen’s Calling”, a happy tune that is carried on her exuberance. She adds an indelible stamp to “A Melody” as well, a happy prancing tune locked in the ensemblage of Yokoyama, Perea and Biala. A hypnotic spell is cast on “In Centro”, a gradual building of tension, from percussion and drums, bass, voice and alto saxophone, layered textures that lock in deep weave and never a wasted moment. The way the components come together, the ease with which the musicians interact, and beckoning tunes make for a winning combination on this record.

Visit Doug Yokoyama on the web at www.dougyokoyama.com .

Tracks and Personnel:


Tracks: Poston Sonata – Part II Internment; Albert Ayler Flying Through the Sky; Tatsu’s Fat Groove; The Halloween Song; Open; Glad You Didn’t See This; Zoo’s Blues; Told by Arizona; 70 by 70

Personnel: Doug Yokoyama—soprano and alto saxophones; Tatsu Aoki—upright bass; Francis Wong—soprano saxophone; Jeff Chan—tenor saxophone

Thanks For Stopping By

Tracks: A Melody; Somewhat Drunken Sailor; Guest Lines; In Centro; Crossing Home; Kings and Queens; Jen’s Calling; Last Year’s Ballad; Not Quite What It Seems

Personnel: Doug Yokoyama—alto saxophone; Jen Shyu—voice and violin; Jimmy Biala—drums and percussion; John-Carlos Perea—electric bass; Vinnie Santino—electric guitar

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