2

Manami Morita: When Skies Are Grey

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Manami Morita: When Skies Are Grey Japanese pianist Manami Morita has made a name for herself in Boston since arriving in 2006 to study at Berklee College of Music. Whether solo, in guitarist Colin Cannon's quartet or leading her own trio, Morita's impressive technique harnesses energy and finesse in equal measure, qualities to the fore on her fourth release as leader. Morita doesn't sacrifice melody for virtuosity either, though there are plenty of fireworks in these vibrant arrangements. Morita, moreover, seems to embrace greater use of space since her bold debut Colors (Self Produced, 2009), and this—allied to the room she gives the other musicians—makes for music that grooves yet breathes.

A minimalist, solo piano rendition of "What a Wonderful World" has a lulling effect prior to the shifting dynamics of "Yellow Bunny Dance," where alto saxophonist Jeremy Vovcsko's sinewy, melodic lines are underpinned by Evgeny Lebedev's simmering organ and drummer Thomas Hartman's propulsive rhythms. Morita and electric bassist Zak Croxall's vamp accompanies Hartman's punchy, yet tightly controlled solo, before Vovcsko restates the head. By contrast, the gentle reverie of "Tiny Shiny Stars" features seductive melodic motifs and percussionist Keita Ogawa's deft accents. Morita's slowly repeating melody dictates the dreamy rhythm, with acoustic bassist Petros Klampanis' lyrical solo overtly led by his wordless singing.

"Unpredicted" is an arresting arrangement for four-piece string quartet and piano, though its serene beauty suggests greater film-score ambience than Morita's classical background. At two minutes, a lone violin seamlessly leads piano and string quartet—joined by rhythm section---into pianist/bandleader Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks." Morita's solo builds gradually, driven by the quietly pulsating rhythm section, with her momentum swinging between freewheeling glissandos and more lyrical flights. "Tamayakul" is part Scott Joplin rag and part Latin-inspired, an enjoyable romp serving as a vehicle for Morita and Hartman's respective muscle-flexing.

Colin Cannon's cantering acoustic guitar leads the intro on "Cold Bowl of Soup," with Morita's wonderfully catchy melody at the heart of the number. Croxall solos over acoustic guitar and shuffling drums before Morita's melody returns to carry the tune home. The episodic "3235" is a jazz-classical hybrid with Morita most impressive, whether executing tumbling lines or meditating gracefully at a slower tempo. Lennon and McCartney's "Blackbird" is given a truly fresh lick of paint in an arrangement that goes from soulful Ray Charles-esque gospel mode to joyous celebration, where piano, saxophone, violin, trumpet and chanting combine in a stirring finale.

Morita's left-field take on "You are my Sunshine" throws devilish feedback effects, like howling wind, at the pianist's bluesy reading of the melody. Then, in time warp effect, Morita switches to swing evocative of stride pianist James P. Johnson's ragtime jazz. A little 1930s nostalgia isn't out of place, as Morita's vocabulary clearly draws from myriad sources while her voice is authentically her own.

Morita's composing and arranging skills have gained ground alongside her outstanding technical ability on this mature yet always accessible work. It's the best indication yet that Morita is a potential star in the making.


Track Listing: What a Wonderful World; Yellow Bunny Dance; Tiny Shiny Stars; Unpredicted; The Peacocks; Tamayakul; Cold Bowl of Soup; 3235; Blackbird; You are my Sunshine.

Personnel: Manami Morita: piano, vibraphone, glockenspiel; Evgeny Lebedev: organ; Colin Cannon; guitar; Petros Klampanis: acoustic bass; Zak Croxall: electric bass; Keita Ogawa: percussion; Thomas Hartman: drums; Jeremy Vovcsko: alto saxophone; Michael Sinicropi: trumpet; Tomoko Omura: violin; Mary Beth Alexander: violin; Jeanie Lee: viola; Joy Stuhr: cello.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Tales From A Forbidden Land" CD/LP/Track Review Tales From A Forbidden Land
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "Chamber Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Chamber Jazz
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "Floa" CD/LP/Track Review Floa
by Phil Barnes
Published: July 23, 2016
Read "Tropical Infinito" CD/LP/Track Review Tropical Infinito
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 8, 2016
Read "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" CD/LP/Track Review Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
by James Nadal
Published: April 8, 2016
Read "88" CD/LP/Track Review 88
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!