The trio – Mana, Tomoca and Chie graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. They incorporate the traditional sounds of koto, jushichigen( a 17 stringed koto), biwa (a Japanese lute) and other instruments with not only their own vocals, which are quite good, but also well known western artists to give this CD a very international flavor. It is very polished and has a professional overall appearance.
There are definite overtones of traditional Japanese music, underlined by very western influences. There are mixed vocals in English and Japanese, some lovely harmonies and a very jazzy or pop feel to many of the tracks.
The production work of Jimmy Harry gives this CD its wide range of appeal and professional presence. There are a few “pop” pieces featuring Lisa Loeb and Leigh Nash from Sixpense None the Richer. Harry wrote or co-wrote all the sonds on this CD as well as being the producer. The big hit Anti Hero featuring Lisa Loeb is also co-penned by Anna Waronker and Greg Kurstin.
New Day Rising is the opening track and it gives us a real feel for the group, its sound and feel. Very jazzy, Japanese influences and lovely vocals with Leigh Nash and harmonies. This track is a perfect track to open the CD.
What the Rain Said is another jazzy composition with Japanese highlights. The instrumental talents of the Trio are emphasized and they are allowed to present the fullness of their sound and their style of music. Love the vocals on this track, very Japanese.
I Never Knew What Love Meant is a more “pop” love song in feel with a nice upbeat feeling, again the elements of Japan in the background, the vocals of Leigh Nash and a very catchy chorus.
Moss Garden is a very traditional Japanese sounding piece, a little “Zen” mixed in with the jazz and pop. A nice performance and it again highlights the musical talents of the Rin’ trio.
The big hit here is the track Anti Hero, featuring Lisa Loeb. The story is about young lady in Japan in a “hero movie” like situation. Very upbeat, great composition, love the lyrics and Lisa Loeb makes this a winner.
Inland Sea is almost ambient electronica, with a very pronounced beat and Japanese flavor. Sea of Tranquility, a short piece, has a very pronounced ambient feel to it, even with Leigh Nash’s vocals.
Superflat (Part II) is very Japanese pop electronica. Bouncy, with harmonizing vocals without words. This is followed by the closing work Past Imperfect, a very traditional sounding Japanese work, with lovely vocals. Another fancy East meets West composition, very sultry and jazzy. A nice ending to the collection.
If you like Japanese influences on your music, this is a lovely addition to your collection, or a fine introduction to the genre. Don’t miss the Lisa Loeb piece, it is well worth getting the CD for. mafostered bygaret Foster for CEV
by Lorna Lee
Her voice is silky, expressive and the style has a French Café or nightclub feel to it. The lyrics are mostly in French, with a few tracks being in English. The songs are about romance, love songs of lost love, jealousy, and desire.
The music is all about the vocals, backed with a steady beat and keyboard electronica backfill. But without good compositions the voice would be lost. Most of the tracks are written by Dorian Wright and a couple are co-authored with Andrew Patch. The lyrics appear to be written mostly by Lorna Lee herself. The production quality is excellent and again, due to Dorian Wright. So we have quality production, well chosen musical compositions and it all leads to a perfect platform for Ms. Lee’s enticing vocals.
Outstanding tracks were hard to pick from all the excellent presentations. If I have to choose, the opening track Es-Tu Sincere? is a winner, presenting us with an overview of the entire CD. The melody is memorable, the beat moves you to move and Ms. Lee’s voice soars through the entire performance. A very romantic piece.
At Last will crash your heart on the shore with this song of love gone bad. I found myself singing with the chorus “It’s so hard to be sad when your boat has sunk at last”. Great lyrics! Memorable music.
Je Reve Que Je Reve or “I Dream What I Dream” is a jazzy upbeat track, lovely execution, and makes me wish I spoke French a bit better than I do so I can sing along with this number. Very memorable music, lovely execution.
Can’t Get Over You could be from a Film Noir; a smoky bar and our hero is eating out his heart over the lovely café singer who he feels sings only for him, yet all but ignores him. A brilliant piece.
Another driven musical presentation, Get Up Get Started is presented with English and French lyrics. Very interesting composition, mixing the sound of the vocals as well as the language.
On some tracks the vocals are a mixture of sung and spoken word, adding yet another element to the music. The music is constantly evolving throughout the CD, and we are presented with some very original and enjoyable variations.
If you enjoy jazz with a French Twist, and silky, sultry vocals, this is an excellent addition to your late night listening. Sit back with a cup of coffee on your balcony or settle into your favorite late night bar with a glass of your favorite and this CD. mafoster
Reviewed by Margaret Foster for CEV
Meg Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble
by Meg Okura
To describe the style of music we are looking at here, I would like to suggest we are looking at classic jazz with progressive undertones, strewn with classic chamber music overtones and sprinkled with Oriental flavors. The mix works, and it pleases the ear, relaxes when it wants yet bounces with an energy that makes you want to dance.
So we come to the CD itself. We are presented with eight tracks on this CD which is independently produced by Meg Okura. The overall quality is excellent, good recording values and arrangements. There are no liner notes, and no times are indicated for the pieces but the CD runs a little over 45 minutes.
Right off we dive right into the unique style of Ms. Okura and her ensemble. Ms. Okura provides the violin, viola and some scattered vocals on the CD. Yukari plays a delightful flute. Megumi Yonezawa provides a powerful piano and Satoshi Takeishi keeps the beat with percussion. Dave Eggar also appears on a few tracks with a cello.
So we wander into Yuki, or Snow. There are some wonderful rhythms on this piece, all blending to give the impression of a snowfall. Absolutely delightful pizzicato strings, endearing piano melody and some lovely flute make this a most enchanting musical composition. It plays long enough to absorb the nuances of the composition and appreciate this enchanting piece. It goes from classical jazz to a very progressive composition and back again.
From this piece we get the full feeling of what this musical ensemble is all about and they put their best foot forward by having this as the opening track.
Step by Step gives us a graduating jazz piece, going from the simple to the sublime. The piece progresses in complexity, and there is a Coltrane implication in the piece that flavors but does not intrude on the original composition. Delightful and a bit playful.
Dance at the Palace starts with a distorted rendition of a recognizable classic piece, being almost demanding of attention, and then breaks into a composition that feels “Middle Eastern” but not quite there. The beat is more Latin. This is an interesting mix which moves to a progressive style of jazz. The piece exercises the skills of Ms. Okura, both in composition as well as the musical expertise of the group itself. The piece is expertly executed, violin to piano back to violin. We feel how tight this group is; they know what they are doing and how to carry it through.
Peace in my Heart is a ballad, warm and touching in composition, classic in composition. A much calmer piece, it emphasizes the violin and piano talents of the ensemble as well as the cello skills of Dave Eggar.
We encounter the dynamic energy of the group again in Viola da Samba, a piece with Latin overtones and a very diverse and vibrant violin. We hear some vocals, more as emphasis than for their melodic quality. The piano and flute return us to the progressive jazz themes that are key to the style of the group. Blended with very classical violin, this is another good example of the style of this group.
Tracks six and seven are a three part composition called Dream Dancer. There is a very dreamlike quality of the opening of track six Haze, almost cinematic in feel. Flute melody with pizzicato strings, cymbal or metal clanking, we get a dream like feeling from the opening which leads into the seventh and most remarkable track on the CD.
Dream Dancer – this piece has been on a free download on Ms. Okura’s site and it originally caught my attention. Cool jazz infused with a very Oriental sound, a very strong classical piano carrying the melody, a flute countering the melody and a pronounced beat. And of course the complex voice of the violin throughout the piece. This is a brilliant composition and one that you will find yourself listening to over and over again. Probably the best track on the CD, next to Yuki. The track ends with some vocals echoing the melody, very subtle, and the violin brings us to the close.
The closing track Ancient Bells is a melancholy ballad. Rather an appropriate ending, as some may be sad to see this end. Again, violin and piano accompany each other through a very deliberate composition. Almost classical in feel sometimes, it does wander back and forth between jazz and classical. A nice blending and a nice closing.
My overall feeling about this CD is that we are presented with something very original and fresh. It crosses between classical and jazz. It is relaxing, it is invigorating. It never disappoints; rather it draws your attention throughout the entire production. The compositions are complex, the skill of the musicians is without question and the quality does not hint at all of it’s independent production.
I am very pleased with this CD, and Ms. Okura has produced a work she can be proud of. I will be looking forward to more from this group. You can purchase the CD from her website. While there, look for her appearances in the New York area clubs. http://www.megokura.com/ and http://www.panasianchamberjazzensemble.com/ mafoster by Margaret Fo
Tales of the Uninvited
Sometimes an experiment works. Sometimes an attempt to bring something new and exciting actually achieves its end goal.
Caprice achieves success in the interpretation of Elven or Fairy music. Inspired by the Tolken series, we are presented with a musical interpretation of his poetries. Using the “Laoris” language rather than English, we are offered music that dances, alighting gently on the ear.
The group Caprice is Russian band and the vocals of Inna Brejestovskaya make the group. The instrumentation is harp, violin, flute, clarinets, bassoon, cello, harpsichord with synthesizer filler. The style is classical with an element of folk. Sometimes it borders on Medieval in feel, which is probably attributable to the theme of the CD. But the vocal range of Ms. Brejestovoskaya is incredible. She is a classical singer; her voice can be light and lilting or dramatic and haunting.
The CD contains 12 tracks, and runs approximately 51 minutes. The cover is typical of the Prokosnovenie label works, featuring the fairy art of Sabine Adelaide. There is a whole written language devised by Caprice, and it is carefully laid out for you to explore in the included liner notes. It is worked into the cover artwork as well. A very interesting concept of using leaves on vines to indicate a written language. The lyrics are, of course, about Fairies. Dancing fairies, mischievous fairies, fairy music, the lyrics are all things fairy.
The notes also include the lyrics to the songs in “Laoris” as well as English. The typeface is small, the color is black and against some of the artwork it is almost unreadable to my old eyes, but that does not diminish the lyrical composition.
Some of the tunes will have you up and dancing about the room. This music does carry a very “magical” feeling to it, and it invites you to dance. It is mostly light and airy, but it can be dynamic, and it does demand attention in some places.
The musicians are skilled; there is nothing amateurish about this CD. The composer Anton Brejestovski knew exactly where he wanted to take the listener and expertly executed the entire feel to get you precisely where he wanted you to go.
The music does get a bit “leading edge” at some points, but it is to be expected from music like this. We are looking at music that was written to be different, experimental and think outside the conventional. Yet, we find ourselves tapping our foot to the time of the lyrical and melodic pieces, wondering in amazement at the more experimental works, always being delighted at the vocal qualities and applauding the arrangement of the overall production.
I wanted to point out some of the more outstanding pieces of this work.
Enter Laoris is a delightful, light and airy work that opens the CD and introduces all the elements of this production. We are also introduced to the amazing vocals of Inna Brejestovskaya.
A very dynamic composition is Two Fairies, focusing on the musical capabilities of the artists, with vocals as harmonic compliment to the melody. This is a lovely piece, classical in appeal with some very folk features, and it dances in some places while drawing us into the dream of fairies.
I love the combination of these instruments. This group has a very unique and original sound here, and the musicians are together enough to accomplish this sound and concept. It is so hard these days to find original music that is well executed. A feather in this band’s cap.
The Court of the Faerie is another piece that will have you tapping your foot in time to the music if it doesn’t succeed in drawing you out of your chair to dance around the room. It sings of fairy love and dancing fairies. It has almost a waltz beat to it sometimes, again beckoning you to the dance. Love the harpsichord and the drums. Summer Night is another one that bubbles and bounces and calls you to dance.
The Forest is a darker piece, much more experimental and I found myself skipping this one when I replayed it. Not everything is perfect, and while this is very progressive, it was not to my liking.
Probably the best track on the CD is Fairies Stole Bridget. Sung in English, it tells the story of a young lady who wanders off with the Fairies. Very catchy chorus you will find yourself singing “Fairies Stole Bridget – Will she ever wake” long after the song is over.
The final track Maple brings us to the end of Summer and to Fall as the fairies disappear. This is a lovely track, delicate and mournful. Another brilliant composition, and a fitting end to this CD.
Any lover of Fairy style music is going to love this CD. If you wander up to the Caprice website, you can hear some mp3s of their music. It’s in Quicktime, but it should be easy enough to load.
Give this import a little of your time. It will take you on a trip to the fairy world that will delight and entertain. A unique trip you will not want to miss. mafostered by