Masako Kunisada’s spiritual, soulful voice channels truth and joy on her first album Wonderful Life from 2012.
With experience singing in jazz clubs, piano lounges, and events across Japan, Kunisada immerses herself in cross-genre influences including jazz, soul, soft rock, R&B, and Japanese traditionals. Her husky voice brims with emotion, and her proficiency in voice and piano charms audiences as she draws from popular jazz standards and deep cuts from other genres.
Kunisada has grown up with a deep study of music, from classical to American soul, pop, R&B, and jazz, and even had a stay in the US to absorb gospel music. A popular draw at Tokyo clubs, she is not limited to jazz but spans genres enthusiastically with surprising and pleasing results.
On her first album as leader, Kunisada wins over listeners just as she does in live settings, by putting all her energy, soul, and a bit of humor into her pure voice to connect directly with the listeners. She bonds with the music with a natural ability, weaving musical nuances and lyrical meaning into her presence. With an easy groove and confidence, her positivity fills the music with love.
Included in this twelve-track album are ten cover songs book-ended by two original songs. The first track “Wonderful Life” is a stimulating opening, spirited pop which gets the album into gear. Following this are jazz covers in original arrangements: “Body & Soul”, “It’s All Right With Me”, “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, “Just Squeeze Me”, “For All We Know”, “Memories Of You”, and “Day By Day”.
Also included are covers of “Louisiana Sunday Afternoon”, “Loving You Was Like A Party”, and “Dancing In The Street”, adding pop-and-groove spices to the mix.
Closing the album is the singer’s second original tune on this album, “I’m Moving On”, a soulful gospel number. Among her accolades are the featuring of this moving song during 2012 and 2016 Olympic ballet events, as well as her performing in 2018 with the Dave Grusin’s Big Band for the Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Anniversary “West Side Story” Performance National Tour in Japan, where she sang the classic Bernstein showtune “Tonight” to great acclaim.
Altogether this accessible album emits good vibrations and positive energy, shining like a warm light from Masako Kunisada’s tangibly captivating vocals.
Wonderful Life by Masako Kunisada
- Masako Kunisada - vocal
- Shigeru Morishita - piano, Rhodes piano, Hammond organ (#1-6, 8-12)
- Ryo Ogihara - electric guitar (#1-3, 7, 10)
- Shinichi Sato - acoustic bass, electric bass
- Manabu Fujii - drums (tr. 1-6, 8-11)
Released in 2012 on Urban Jazz as 151A-0005. Rereleased in 2020 on Owl Wing Record.
Japanese Names: Masako Kunisada 国貞雅子 Shigeru Morishita 森下滋 Ryo Ogihara 荻原亮 Shinichi Sato 佐藤慎一 Manabu Fujii 藤井学
Audio and Video
© Brian McCrory 2020
Sep 13, 2020