A satisfyingly neat outing, Naoko Tanaka Trio’s Memories (2015) leaves a fresh impression of modern Japanese jazz trios. The playing on this album is both playful and precise, with considered arrangements and decorations sprinkled through the welcoming music. Light touches and coordinated rhythmic hits play a role, hinting at styles employed by greats such as the Ahmad Jamal Trio. Attention is paid to the structure of each song, and as with any good jazz record, those structures are filled out with each soloist’s improvisations, bouncing solos off the harmonic movements and the rhythmic frames.

The nine-track listing includes seven originals by Tanaka, along with the Gershwin standard “But Not For Me” and a concluding piano-bass classical song. Most tracks feature piano trio with the young pianist firmly in command, releasing quick whirls of bluesy notes and graceful glides connected with flourishes of a technique rooted in classical training yet now dedicated to the jazz language with pomp and flair. On two tracks, the trio becomes a quartet with veteran jazz trumpeter Yoshiro Okazaki adding additional color and exceptional solos.

From the first track “Sailing” a bracing, uplifting mood is established, expanding into dreamy elegance on “Sign of Spring” and the groovy bossa bluesiness of “Cato-cha”. Other tracks range from the lovely ballad “Soramoyou”, good-natured midtempo swing on “But Not For Me” and “For…”. Slightly darker tracks like “NY No Omoide” and “Wall Street Blues” round out the presentation with moody and vibrant flashes of energy, while the final telling of a Chopin’s “Nocturne op.48-1” show pianist Tanaka and bassist Daikiu Yasukagawa in an expressive mood, calmly winding down the trip through Memories with a graceful maturity.

Memories by Naoko Tanaka Trio

Released in 2015 on D-neo Daiki Musica as DNCD-05.

Japanese Names: Naoko Tanaka 田中菜緒子 Koji Yasuda 安田幸司 Masanori Ando 安藤正則 Yoshiro Okazaki 岡崎好朗 Daiki Yasukagawa 安ヵ川大樹

Audio and Video

Excerpt from "Sailing", the opening track on this album:

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Oct 18, 2020