In the age of sprawling epics masquerading as jazz records, stumbling onto a concise, minimalist narrative can be a delightful stray from the norm. In the case of Vegetable Soup, a three-composition EP by guitarist Norihiro Kikuta, the music functions as a snapshot, a thunderclap accompanied by a flash of light that illuminates a solitary transformation. Taken together, the tracks weave a short, accessible story of individual growth.
The adjective 'simple' often carries unspoken negative connotations, though it is perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Vegetable Soup when combined with the project's notable consistency. The title track opens with the whisper of Tibetan singing bowls accompanied by Kikuta's slow, muted downstrokes. The inclusion of minimal, electronic effects punctuates the sheer amount of space on the track. The composition is a soundscape to a single scene of profound solitude, a theme that is addressed throughout the EP. "Why Worry So" functions as the bridge between two dichotomous themes. The track features vocalist Josh Antonucci, whose praiseworthy articulation and modern sense of phrasing propel the narrative forward. More than that, the composition exhibits the extraordinary cohesion of this ensemble. By the project's conclusion, Kikuta is lauding a brimming, warm summer with his beaming Joe Pass-like tone. "Summer" is the standout track in terms of strict musicianship; not only is the composition well-played, but the execution of the piece is emblematic of the artistically minimalist approach to Vegetable Soup as a whole. Saxophonist Ryoichi Yamaki's pleasant, sunny tone lingers above the rhythm section comprised of Kikuta, Alex Smith on electric bass, and Ryo Noritake on drums.
As a student of all musics, Kikuta could have easily used Vegetable Soup to showcase his well-documented versatility. He has forgone such a display and in exchange has produced a coherent private narrative. Kikuta possesses a poet's instinct for storytelling; by stripping away all unnecessary flourishes, plot twists, and gimmicks, he has crafted a digestible, pleasant account without making light of his subject.
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