Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Toshiko Akiyoshi - Her Trio, Her Quartet

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  • Published on Thursday, 28 November 2013 13:02
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Trio
Toshiko Akiyoshi-piano
Oscar Pettiford-bass
Roy Haynes-drums

Quartet
Toshiko Akiyoshi-piano
Boots Mussulli-alto sax
Wyatt Reuther-bass
Ed Thigpen-drums

Toshiko Akiyoshi came to Oscar Peterson’s attention when the jazz great was touring Japan with Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1953. Recommending her to impresario Norman Granz, Akiyoshi soon came to the U.S. to study at Berklee. She made a few small group recordings, then married Charlie Mariano and co-led a band with him for a time, though it disbanded by the time of their divorce. Relocating to the West Coast with her new husband Lew Tabackin in the early 1970s, he encouraged her to form a big band to play her compositions, which blended Japanese influences with American jazz. Her orchestra made its first LP (<I>Kogun</I>) for a Japanese label, though soon she was drawing attention in her adopted homeland, too. She gave up the band in 2003 after being frustrated with the difficultly of getting regular bookings in the U.S., since then she has devoted herself more to solo piano, along with duos, trios and quartets.

Akiyoshi’s second record date featured the twenty-four year old pianist with the young bassist Paul Chambers (who had joined Miles Davis in 1955) and drummer Ed Thigpen (who had worked with Cootie Williams, Bud Powell and Dinah Washington). She also shows promise as a composer so early in her career. The influence of Bud Powell, who Toshiko has cited as one of her heros, is apparent in her interpretations of both “It Could Happen to You” and “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.” The traditional Japanese melody “Soshu No Yoru” is a solo ballad feature for the pianist, though she can’t resist throwing in a brief bop lick to this otherwise Impressionistic performance. Her shimmering ballad "Kyo-Shu (Nostalgia)” is an understated affair, with the rhythm section playing sparingly.

Akiyoshi begins “Manhattan Address” begins with a reserved introduction, switching gears rapidly bending bop and a Mozart-like flavor in an up-tempo workout. The pianist’s the intricate bop vehicle "Homework" is a bit more dissonant and full of twists. The depth of Toshiko Akiyoshi’s playing is remarkable throughout this rewarding session.

Ken Dryden

 

 
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