Pianist Miki Yamanaka's working trio (Tyrone Allen, bass; Jimmy Macbride, drums) is very good. Add tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, as she does on Shades of Rainbow, and the results are even better. Besides playing nimble and expressive piano, Japanese-born, New York-based Yamanaka composed and arranged every song on Rainbow, her fifth album as leader.
For those who may be inclined to peek inside her head, Yamanaka provides a brief rationale for each tune, from "That Ain't Betty" (a contrafact of Benny Golson's "Along Came Betty") to "Oatmeal" (which Yamanaka confesses she does not like) and everything in between. The album's title song, she writes, was composed with Turner's tenor in mind. Any reservations about Yamanaka's ability to swing at warp speed are erased on the suitably named blues, "Uh Oh," whose mercurial tempo seriously tests everyone's chops (note: everyone passes with flying colors).
Aside from "Betty" and the loping "Oatmeal," on which she plays electric piano, Yamanaka's most engaging tunes are her tributes to Mary Lou Williams ("Song for Mary Lou") and Horace Silver ("Gin," a rough translation of Silver's name in Japanese). "Mary Lou" is a cool-headed groover on which everyone shines, "Gin" a muscular throwback to the bop canon. Yamanaka is at ease on every one, as is Turner. While Turner lists Warne Marsh and John Coltrane as main influences, he leans more toward Trane than Warne here.
Yamanaka's other tunes"Early Morning," "Clam"have their bright moments as well, and Shades of Rainbow is a far better than average quartet date. High-quality contemporary jazz from start to finish,
That Ain’t Betty; Early Morning; Shades of Rainbow; Uh Oh; Song for Mary Lou; Clam; Gin;
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