Japan-born Fukumi teams up with pianist David Hazeltine for the cool jazz singer's second CD on sale in the States, the self-released The Look Of Love. (Her first CD, Let Me Introduce Myself, appeared in 2002 on Stella Records.)
Fukumi's approach to a melody is straightforward and simple, and what distinguishes her from other minimalist singers is her unflinching confidence with a vocal line. Hazeltine's standout arrangements ably support Fukumi's economical vocals while making full use of evocative horn solos (Jim Rotondi on trumpet and flugelhorn); the top-flight rhythm section (John Webber on bass and Mark Taylor on drums) for the most part sits tight in the background. In song selection Fukumi plays it safe with standards and jazz remakes of Burt Bacharach hits from the 60sthe net result is a relaxed album that is hard to pin down and hard to dislike.
When singers choose less over more the focus invariably shifts to the lyrics, and this is the case with Fukumi's latest effort. The tune "Guess Who I Saw Today showcases her abilities as a believable storyteller, and her restraint on "Just One Of Those Things, made all the more difficult by the driving pulse of her band, only calls attention to the insouciance expressed in the lyrics.
These days most jazz singers are revamping pop classics, and those tunes by composers of substance (like Bacharach) often benefit from the update, which, if done well, reveals the timelessness of solid songwriting. Fukumi and company do it well: They removed all of the chirpy 60s sound from their remakes of "The Look Of Love and "Alfie mostly thanks to Hazeltine's informed reharmonizationsand on "Close To You Taylor's brushes and Fukumi's wistful vocals turn the 1970s hit from a soft-rock ballad of requited love to a modern jazz ballad about longingand losing.
Track Listing: The Look Of Love; You Don
Personnel: Fukumi: vocals; David Hazeltine: piano and arrangements; Jim Rotondi: trumpet and flugelhorn; John Webber: bass; Mark Taylor: drums.