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In October '04, a number of the most celebrated jazz trumpeters on the West Coast (and in the world) gathered in Los Angeles to take part in "Stratospheric, a three-day salute to the incomparable Maynard Ferguson sponsored by Ken Poston and the LA Jazz Institute. As one would expect, there were electrifying performances by the likes of Bobby Shew, Wayne Bergeron, Don Rader, Bob Summers, Dennis Noday, Roger Ingram, Scott Englebright, Stan Mark, Pete DeSiena and others. But it was a relative unknown named Eric Miyashiro who caused heads to turn and jaws to drop as he consistently nailed the sort of incredible high notes usually associated with Maynard himself. After each performance the question most often heard was, "Who is this guy?
As it turns out, Miyashiro, a Hawaiian of Japanese descent, had studied in the US and worked in the Buddy Rich trumpet section before moving to Japan, where he has since become a renowned star and bandleader in his own right. Long an admirer of Ferguson's high-energy ensembles, Miyashiro has modeled his band in that image, and the resemblance is absolutely mind-blowing on Times Square, recorded last February at a Tokyo nightspot which bears the cryptic name STB 139.
Like his role model, Miyashiro plays not only trumpet but flugelhorn and Superbone, and to underline further the kinship, he introduces the ensemble and opens the concert date with Ferguson's shuffling theme, "Blue Birdland. Even though Miyashiro performs only one other number explicitly associated with Ferguson (Don Sebesky's memorable arrangement of "Danny Boy ), the late maestro's irrepressible spirit overspreads everything else, from Bill Cunliffe's spine-tingling "No Exit, Pete Jackson's forceful "Left Bank Express and Slide Hampton's breathtaking arrangement of "Stella by Starlight (the last often played by Ferguson's ensembles) to Miyashiro's bright and invigorating original compositions"Kokopelli, "Ken's Bar, "Times Square, "Basara and "Kick Up.
There's yet another similarity: Miyashiro leads a world-class ensemble, as sharp and powerful as any you'll hear anywhere, an opinion amplified by this excellent recording. Its highlights are too numerous to assess, but one must acknowledge the spine-tingling brass chorales on "Kokopelli and "Times Square, the high-octane rhythm section led by drummer Tappy Iwase, the unfailingly impressive section work, the superb (but unidentified) soloists (liner notes are in Japanese), and last but not least, Miyashiro's remarkable perception and artistry on every horn. This is a terrific album by a phenomenal band (and leader). If you can track down a copy, check it out.
Track Listing: Blue Birdland; No Exit; Kokopelli; Kenís Bar; Stella by Starlight; Times Square; Basara; Danny Boy; Left Bank Express; Kick Up (63:55).