Mistral is a soulful live jazz album from sax and piano duo Toshihiko Inoue and Masaki Hayashi, recorded in 2008 and released in 2013. Although the extended title Mistral: Duo at Mister Kelly’s may seem to reference the historically famous Mister Kelly’s in Chicago and live albums from Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and others, this Japanese jazz album was recorded at Mister Kelly’s jazz bar in Osaka, an independent venue named in honor of the famous American nightclub.

Musicians Inoue and Hayashi (also bandmates in the jazz group Clepsydra) play expertly together on Mistral’s hour-plus live set, which comes as no surprise considering their respective acclaim and experience. The intimate duo of sax and piano brings a relaxed feel with plenty of space to explore the music, and most songs last ten minutes or more as the musicians craft their improvisations. The format works well to engage the audience members, which in response inspires the musicians to strive for new ideas and discoveries. The duo takes up that task confidently here, roaming from sentimental ballads to acrobatic feats with skill.

The album opens up with Inoue striking out alone on solo saxophone on the beautiful, well-known jazz ballad “Lush Life”, unloosing husky melodies for nearly twelve minutes. Hayashi joins on piano for the second track, his delicate and gentle “Göteborg” describing minor shades of budding life. Following these opening ballads, track three energizes the atmosphere with Inoue’s “Ibuki”, rockish jazz with fiery dimensions, fun and invigorating. Next, the duo develops an extended medley of the timeless “Witchi-Tai-To” and Inoue’s “North Rider”, a flashy, dark-tinged adventure that Inoue often performed with his fusion group Fuse. The album closes with Wayne Shorter’s unforgettable “Ana Maria”, a stellar inspiration where Inoue lets loose his light-as-air soprano sax sound.

Mistral by Toshihiko Inoue & Masaki Hayashi

Released in 2013 on 78 Label as FNFY-06.

Japanese Names: Toshihiko Inoue 井上淑彦 Masaki Hayashi 林正樹

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Jul 16, 2021