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Kaori Vibes Quartet: Starry Nights
Starry Nights is the latest album from the Kaori Vibes Quartet. This is leader Kaori Nakajima’s third album with her group, following her Flying Mind and Cross Point releases. On her debut album, Nakajima’s quartet previously went by Vangy!!, a charming name that combines the V from vibraphone with an initial from each musician, and decorated with two mallet-like exclamation points… though, four “!!!!” would also work, as Nakajima impressively plays the instrument with two mallets in each hand in the style of famous modern jazz vibists Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton.
On KVQ’s Starry Nights, Nakajima’s bell-like tones and warm vibrato take center stage on ten new original songs with straight-ahead jazz, uptempo bebop, and heartwarming ballads. Her music (she contributes most of the original songwriting on this album, as on her previous two releases) is charming and fun, imbued with positivity and cheer.
Whether on the sunny opener “Through the Lights”, the mysterious “Echo of Stars”, or the rapid-fire “Dispel It!”, there’s a stellar lightness beaming through the music. This grace belies the strenuous effort Nakajima puts into her performance, pounding soul and muscle through the mallets to the instrument’s metal bars. It’s a seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy that is quite apparent at Nakajima’s dynamic live shows, where she transforms the heavy, challenging instrument into a limitless musical fountain that produces soaring streams of gravity-defying notes.
(Excerpted and translated from the original Japanese liner notes written by Kaori Nakajima.)
Through the Lights
Shuto Expressway at night. Passing along the highway at high speed, lights shine from both sides… it’s like being surrounded by a tunnel of lights. This song was written with that feeling in mind. My dear old Subaru Sambar can only go to third gear, but he’s cute, and I admire his speed (laughs).
Echo of Stars
Twinkling stars in the night sky of a freezing winter. It takes an unimaginable number of years for these lights to reach the earth. It’s a strange feeling to see something that may not even exist any longer. This song was written while thinking about the sounds of stars that can not be heard. (Composition: Tamashi Goto)
In the early spring of 2020, while the unprecedented coronavirus started to spread panic in the world, musicians were also faced with the decision of whether or not to perform live. Both choices were accompanied by regret and anxiety, and every day carried a feeling of confusion. I decided to write a song that would capture all this uncertainty.
And, to completely drive away this feeling of gloom, I wrote this song on the same day as “Hazy Days” (It refers to Hazy).
Drop! Drop! Stars!
Based on a motif from the cool intro riff on track two, Tamashi’s “Echo of Stars”, I tried to write my own song about stars as a sort of answer song. I wrote this with a feeling of looking up at a sky full of stars with a childlike perspective, reaching out my hands as if to say “Let the stars fall here!”
O Mar A Noite
In Portuguese, “the night sea”. Standing alone on the beach at night, the waves lap at my feet. Gradually my eyes adjust to the darkness, and while sensing the moonlight and the starlight, human emotions and various sensations fade, and even the sense of self starts to melt between the nighttime waves. This was written with that sort of feeling. I’ve never been to the sea in Portugal, so this is just a fantasy (laughs).
It Happens All the Time
Usually, I write songs based on impressions evoked by scenery or emotions, but this time I decided on a specific theme: 1950s hard-bop jazz. The title refers to things that happen often. I hope that it matches the image you have in mind. (Composition: Tamashi Goto)
A song written with the Kushiro Wetlands in mind. Drone photography captures wide greenery and gradually becomes a close-up showing something like wetlands. Coming even closer, there a group of animals is discovered in the corner of the marsh! Still closer, it becomes clear they are Japanese red-crowned cranes. After a while watching the vicinity of the red-crowned cranes, all at once they begin to flap their wings, and the image once again gradually shifts to the vista. With this feeling, I tried to capture in musical notes this image of a nature program. I’ve also never been to Kushiro Wetlands, so this too is a fantasy (laughs)!
My second album included the recording of “Cross Point”, a song written as standing in intersections was to crossroads in life, but this song has more of a survival feeling. In a wilderness where there are no intersections, with 360 degrees to choose from a direction to go forward, it’s an ultimate degree of freedom but a very hard life in that sense! As I was thinking of that, I wrote this song. Erica is a wildflower from the heather family which blooms in the wilderness. Considering the strength of this flower to thrive in harsh environments, I thought it was a perfect title for this song!
At the end of 2020, on the day before my birthday, my beloved grandfather passed away. He lived a full life to 96 years old. Whenever he opened his mouth it was to make jokes, and the neighborhood children, facility staff, and others were always filled with smiles around him. He was always a sunny person. While thinking about my grandfather I sat at the piano and reflected back on the incredibly fun memories, and with naturally happy and honest feelings I tried to write this song. I chose a title that symbolizes sunshine in the language of flowers.
Starry Nights by Kaori Vibes Quartet
Kaori Nakajima - vibraphone
Tamashi Goto - piano
Minoru Yoshiki - bass
Masanori Ando - drums
Released in 2021 on Urban Jazz as 151A-0027.
Japanese names: Kaori Nakajima 中島香里 Tamashi Goto 後藤魂 Minoru Yoshiki 吉木稔 Masanori Ando 安藤正則
Audio and Video
Excerpt from “Through the Lights”, track #1 on this album: