New York-style jazz with a fresh Japanese take is the focus on 2010’s Playing New York, where popular Japanese pianist Akane Matsumoto leads a trio with veteran NYC musicians Nat Reeves (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums).

With ten songs ranging from speedy bebop to romantic ballads, well-known tunes from jazz influences are covered, such as Oscar Peterson’s “Wheat Land”, Bud Powell’s “Celia”, and Duke Ellington’s “Sunset and the Mockingbird”, a sensitive and lingering close to the album. Matsumoto also presents three original tunes: “Playing”, a whirlwind Phineas Newborn Jr-style quick bop, “Twilight”, a soft, tender ballad in three, and “My Dear”, a comfortable and heart-warming bossa nova tune.

Her impressive dexterity and jazz proficiency is apparent right from the opening of the album, bringing to mind the legendary Phineas Newborn Jr., who was also honored on Matsumoto’s previous release I Love Phineas. Her skills shine on faster tunes such as “Relaxing at Camarillo” and “Celia”, demonstrating a mastery of bebop and her characteristic happy, deeply-swinging style that she clearly enjoys performing while thrilling the listener.

At medium tempos, Matsumoto’s relaxed rhythmic sense is unerringly charming, playing with a solid, feel-good groove and tangible pulse from the trio. With another tip of the hat to the legendary Phineas, this groovy feeling is especially strong on Horace Silver’s “Juicy Lucy”, where the youthful pianist swings with bluesy flair and decorative gospel touches.

Playing New York by Akane Matsumoto

Released in 2010 on TK Entertainment as QACK-35007.

Japanese Names: Akane Matsumoto 松本茜

Audio and Video

Excerpt from "Playing", the first track on this album:

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Feb 19, 2019