Chihiro Yamanaka Trio: When October Goes
Chihiro Yamanaka’s second release When October Goes was released in 2002, a natural followup to her impressive debut Living Without Friday released the prior year. This second album features the pianist playing with new recording members Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, members of the Brad Mehldau Trio who would continue to record and tour to great acclaim like Yamanaka herself.
The ten tracks on When October Goes include three original songs, with the balance of the music being jazz standards and rearranged songs.
The opening original number “Taxi” is a highlight, a great way to open the set with creative modern jazz and scintillating piano improv. The other two originals reveal a humorous side to go along with her prodigious jazz talent: “Plum the Cow”, named for a neighbor’s bovine pet, is a quirky uptempo blues, while “S.L.S. (Silly Little Song)” is an ultra-catchy odd-meter tune with swirling keyboards, easily hooking the listener all the way to the don’t-want-it-to-end fade out.
Amidst the high-energy swing, the emotional ballad “When October Goes” is delivered with deserving finesse and care for the music. Other jazz covers include “Just In Time”, “In A Mellow Tone”, and George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”, masterfully reinvented with novel accents and an extended vamp for the pianist to spin twisty improvisations over an in-the-pocket rhythm section groove.
Together with jazz and pop standards, Yamanaka also includes her upbeat jazz version of a Japanese traditional song “Yagi Bushi” (later revisited on her 2005 album Outside By The Swing) and a memorable pick of Keith Jarrett’s “Paint My Heart Red”, where the pianist’s long, fluid lines float gracefully over soft jazz chords with a mesmerizing beat.
When October Goes received numerous awards upon release, including four weeks at #1 on the HMV Weekly Modern Jazz Chart, 33 weeks at #1 on the HMV Yearly Modern Jazz Chart, and 2003 HMV Grand Prize Record of the Year for Best Japanese Jazz Album.
This is a transcription of the CD liner notes written by Chihiro Yamanaka:
I’d like to explain a bit about these tunes.
“Taxi” was composed right after I moved to NY city and I tried to describe my impression of the cityscape from BQE (highway to Brooklyn). This title comes from one of my favorite TV series, “TAXI”.
I didn’t expect “Just In Time” to be on this CD because we actually recorded this after the sessions were completed.
Keith played “Paint My Heart Red” for the Hanshin Earthquake. I still remember seeing him play on the NHK news show in the morning. But I forgot some part of the tune…
As you may know, “Yagi Bushi” is a traditional Japanese “dance” song. I arranged this for Kiryu City a long time ago.
“Plum The Cow” is about my friend’s cow “Plum”. She is very cute and naughty.
I love lyrics for “Ballad For Their Footsteps” and I felt this song and “Three Views of a Secret” have the same spirituality. Both tune’s original keys were the same.
“I Got Rhythm” was arranged for “JVC Jazz Festival in NY”.
“When October Goes” has beautiful text too. I played this tune for the first time with Nancy Wilson.
“S.L.S.” standards for Silly Little Song. Accidentally, we recorded this as 5/4 over 7/8 and I added some effects later on. It’s a Steinway piano and mixing this tune was a lot of fun! I’m kind of addicted to it.
Duke’s melodies have such a strong statement and “In A Mellow Tone” is no exception. Arranging is like cooking. If you get something fresh and delicious, it is so easy to cook. I hope you like it.
Special thanks to: Larry and Jeff for making this music so beautiful. Stanley Kay, Sherri Maricle, Tim Conklin, Yoshiaki Sawano, Hiroaki Ishii, Shoji and Kenji for their deep love of music and continuous support.
This music is dedicated to my father Yasusuke, my mother Hiroko and my sister Makoto.
When October Goes by Chihiro Yamanaka Trio
Chihiro Yamanaka - piano
Larry Grenadier - bass
Jeff Ballard - drums
Released in 2002 on Atelier Sawano as AS-025.
Japanese names: Chihiro Yamanaka 山中千尋
Audio and Video
Excerpt from "Taxi", the first track on this album: