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George Nakajima Trio: First Touch
On his debut album First Touch from 2021, George Nakajima delivers the curated sound of his jazz piano trio, thoughtfully balancing song choices and playing set modestly between modern edge and old-fashioned homage. Through its seven tracks, the album is easy to enjoy and runs for a satisfying 46 minutes.
Joining the pianist are Nakajima’s long-time musical partners Yoshida Yutaka on bass and Masanori Ando on drums, a trio with a locked-in feeling created through years of performing together in Japan’s live scene.
Perhaps unexpectedly trepidatious for a debut album, Nakajima bucks the natural impulse to open with a high-energy song and starts with the very lovely ballad “But Beautiful”. This patient approach seems to subtly invite the listener to tune in gradually and focus their attention at one’s own pace.
In fact, slow ballads are chosen for the opening, middle (Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss”), and ending songs, establishing a gentle and moderated baseline for the album as a whole. These anchor points set up a reassuring center of gravity with a throughline of unhurried piano and bass notes supported by soft drums brushes, a very enjoyable relaxed jazz trio in a quiet mood. Burt Bacharach’s masterful tune “A House Is Not a Home” closes the album and is an especially impressive highlight, expertly played with finesse and respect.
In between the ballads, the songs lift from this foundation with the uptempo bop of “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” and the jangly playful “Evidence”. Similarly, the exoticism of “Nardis”, a song often associated with Bill Evans’ melodic trio, is performed here in a slightly slower, otherworldly setting. Alongside these jazz standard tunes, Nakajima’s original composition “First Touch” complements the setlist with its simple heartbeat melodic motif with comfortable waltz-time ease.
With a respectful length and a perfect song selection honoring great jazz musicians, George Nakajima’s First Touch leaves a heartwarming impression with its modest yet stimulating approach, a compelling initial statement that tempts with future possibilities for sharing his gratifying music.
Translation of George Nakajima’s message from the liner notes:
Thank you very much for listening to my first album “First Touch”.
I’ve been working with the wonderful and dedicated trio members Yoshida Yutaka and Masanori Ando for the last eight and a half years, all the while thinking about making a CD. Somehow the days passed, but the timing was never right.
At some point, I received a call from jazz pianist and CEO of Own Wing Records Yuichiro Aratake, and this resulted in my recording this album.
Needless to say, releasing a jazz CD requires a lot of courage, so I felt like recording in the pattern of our regular live shows among the background of our ongoing live efforts.
I hope that you enjoy these sounds, notes that were only produced once and at that time.
As for “First Touch”, this is my only recorded original song.
In soccer, the term first touch refers to the moment when a player first touches the ball.
I don’t usually write originals, but this is a song that resulted when I challenged myself to write a composition a few years ago.
I tried to write a simple form using various feelings from the time to create a fresh feeling.
As the world is still unsettled due to corona, I continue to pray for a steady resolution, and I sincerely hope that this CD can be delivered throughout the country as soon as possible.
2021.4 George Nakajima
First Touch by George Nakajima Trio
George Nakajima - piano
Yutaka Yoshida - bass
Masanori Ando - drums
Released in 2021 on Owl Wing Record as OWL-022.
Japanese names: George Nakajima 中嶋錠二 Yutaka Yoshida 吉田豊 Masanori Ando 安藤正則
Audio and Video
Excerpt from "First Touch", the third track on this album: