Tatsu Aoki: The Miyumi Project
The Miyumi Project is a successful attempt at fusing Asian traditional music with Jazz, and therefore at stretching the boundaries of the latter. Although the leader is bassist Tatsu Aoki, all but one tune (traditional) are his compositions, reedist Mwata Bowden gets the spotlight. Mostly featured on baritone sax, the instrument on which I believe he excels the most, Mr. Bowden is given ample space to develop his ideas. His abrasive style might not be for all ears, but whether he howls, bellows or squeaks, he remains in total control of his instrument. He gets support from three percussionists (Paul Kim, Patti Adachi and Hide Yoshihashi), Robbie Hunsinger (oboe, shenai and sona) on the contemplative "Early Dance" and the aptly titled "Fast Ride", and of course Mr. Aoki. Mr. Aoki's unorthodox playing fits very well in the mix. His bouncy style and playfulness are at their best on "River". The percussions are subtly arranged and very tight providing a solid foundation and creating at times a hypnotic beat ("Movement", "Ink Erasers").
I should also mention that the band's live performances are even better: Patti Adachi's moves are so graceful and Paul Kim will knock you out. They often play at HotHouse. Don't miss them!
Finally, I should say that this opus is the fruit of the first collaboration between Southport Records and Asian Improv Records, and both labels should be commanded for documenting this ensemble.—Alain Drouot
Available on the Southport label, widely distributed in Chicago stores or via their website www.chicagosound.com .