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Miho Hazama: Time River

Hrayr Attarian By

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Composer, bandleader and pianist Miho Hazama's second release for Sunnnyside Records, Time River, is a uniquely thrilling album. The sublimely variegate harmonic color, the gripping, dramatic atmosphere and the dynamic musical ideas result in a cohesive and impeccably crafted album that is alive with spontaneity. Each of the nine original and distinctive pieces is perfectly constructed with room for individuality, raw emotion and expressive intelligence.

Hazama deftly conducts the musical whirlwind "Dizzy Dizzy Wildflower" to create a provocative and intriguing abstract soundscape. Overlapping instrumental sections lead to a taut and captivating atmosphere. Out of this emerges saxophonist Ryoji Ihara with an evocative nocturnesque improvisation. His resonant tone floats over pianist Alex Brown's cascading arpeggios and bassist Sam Anning and drummer Jake Goldbas' restive percolations. The trio's rhythmic flourishes morph into a soulful interplay with a loose sense of swing that buoy trumpeter Mat Jodrell's funky solo. Vibraphonist James Shipp punctuates the electrifying ensemble performance with his crystalline mallets as Jodrell engages the orchestra in a heady duet peppered with hints of whimsy and subtle dissonance.

Similar transformation of moods and sonic backdrops marks the superb title track. Opening with pianist Sam Harris' chiming refrains it evolves from intimate and melancholic to angular and fiery. Harris' chords grow more percussive matching Goldbas' stormy rumble. Saxophonist Joshua Redman weaves a rousing soliloquy within this cinematic ambience that wavers between the gritty, visceral and the wistfully poetic.

Another guest, accordionist Gil Goldstein brings his signature touch to the sensual "Under the Same Moon." His undulating and ardent lines shimmer as they flow over the band's evocative refrains. A romantic and yearning exchange between Goldstein's virtuosic phrases and the dreamy sonic images of the ensemble gradually builds to a moving climax. Ihara's supple soprano and violinist Sarah Caswell's lyrical strings meld with Goldstein's tender yet muscular improvisation to create exquisite nostalgia.

There are also ethereal moments on the recording as on the engrossing and tense "Magdalena." After the various musicians superimpose their distinctive sounds, a densely textured and darkly hued environment ensues. Baritone saxophonist Andrew Gutauskas solos with simmering emotion and a blustery fervor. The riotous group play that follows envelopes altoist Cam Collins' naked wails and intense flood of notes. Driven by Goldbas' thudding, marching percussion the horns lay down a powerful and stimulating cacophony that brims with a primal spirituality.

Occasionally Hazama assumes the pianist's role as on the intriguing "Fugue." Accompanying her are Goldbas and the string quartet. Hazama's percussive chords echo Goldbas' thunderous beats while the other four perform an emotive and poignant melody that unfolds into an otherworldly and acerbic tune.

At a time when orchestral jazz is either ultra-polished, exceedingly highbrow or a pedestrian pandering to sentimental tastes of yore, Hazama's boldly organic and singularly exciting collective is a fresh of breath air. Her uncanny ability to remain intellectually stimulating and vibrantly spirited is what makes her work singularly innovative. With Time River she truly fuses the creatively prearranged and freely extemporaneous for a perfectly satisfying disc that has all the makings of a classic.

Track Listing: The Urban Legend; Cityscape; Under the Same Moon; Dizzy Dizzy Wildflower; Alternate Universe, Was That Real?; Introduction; Fugue; Time River; Magdalena (Song by a Perfect Circle).

Personnel: Miho Hazama: direzione, pianoforte; Gil Goldstein: fisarmonica; Joshua Redman: sax tenore e soprano; Matthew Jodrell: tromba, flicorno; Adam Unsworth: corno francese; Cam Collins: sax contralto, clarinetto; Ryoji Ihara: sax tenore e soprano sax, flauto; Andrew Gutauskas: sax baritono, clarinetto basso; Joyce Hammann: violino; Sara Caswell: violino; Lois Martin: viola; Meaghan Burke: violoncello; James Shipp: vibrafono; Sam Harris: pianoforte; Alex Brown: pianoforte; Sam Anning: contrabbasso; Jake Goldbas: batteria.

Title: Time River | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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