Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Keigo Hirakawa, Pixel, Origin Records ***1/2

Bob Hurst completists may not know about Pixel new from Keigo Hirakawa released recently by US label Origin. Certainly they will want to. And for added value and the main focus beyond the great bassist's participation discover Hirakawa possibly for …

Published: 24 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

Bob Hurst completists may not know about Pixel new from Keigo Hirakawa released recently by US label Origin. Certainly they will want to. And for added value and the main focus beyond the great bassist's participation discover Hirakawa possibly for the first time, particularly his involving writing as the album is stocked almost to the brim of the knotty but immediately impactful compositions by the pianist.

The American-Japanese leader, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Dayton in Ohio who also holds a masters in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory, also has hired reedist and flautist Rafael Statin, guitarist Brandon Scott Coleman and drummer Alex White for Pixel - a link here is worth following in that Hirakawa was a sideman on Coleman's album Infinite Loop released six years ago. Hurst thrives on a riff most on 'Home Somewhere' and more broadly speaking melodies are bright, the stylistic remit loosely spanning 1980s and 1990s jazz-rock but the album sounds in no way dated. There is a generous dimension of rhythmical undertow to the tunes' harmonically progressive directions. Coleman's colouration of melody lines adds texture that opens up more expansive vistas. And in that regard MBASE era guitar hero David Gilmore springs to mind when listening to his contributions as a blues rock seam is prised open. The pianist leader's best soloing comes on 'Origami Beetle' and you can pick up some of the influence of Danilo Pérez there most.

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Outstanding gigs this week - Judith Owen, Yellowjackets & the Sultan Stevenson trio

Judith Owen and her Gentlemen Callers Jazz Cafe, London, tonight. Come On & Get It was a breakthrough release by singer Judith Owen and hearing it took us back to a first exposure to Owen owning it at Soho club Crazy Coqs when the singer came …

Published: 24 Jul 2023. Updated: 11 months.

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Judith Owen and her Gentlemen Callers Jazz Cafe, London, tonight.

Come On & Get It was a breakthrough release by singer Judith Owen and hearing it took us back to a first exposure to Owen owning it at Soho club Crazy Coqs when the singer came on unannounced as a guest with the erstwhile Jimmy Scott pianist Jon Regen, oh, around 7 years ago. On the album with a 1950s vibe it's luxe all the way. Certainly camp - meaning everything is sung as if in double quote marks or at least with a wink and mucho gusto - fun is not a banned word. Mannered in a period sense, full of joie de vivre and mischief the album was recorded in a New Orleans studio. Highlights there are many: Go for the exuberant Welsh woman's take counterintuitively perhaps so slowly captured navigating the Sonny Burke, Peggy Lee song 'He's A Tramp' also covered by Melody Gardot and Janelle Monáe in recent years. Feelgood all the way - few albums romp along as merrily as Come On & Get It. You might just think looking at the label's name Twanky Records that the pantomime season has arrived especially early this year. It probably has.

Yellowjackets Ronnie Scott's, London Wednesday 26th

An event gig for jazz-rock fans we thought it was Bob's your uncle once again rustled up from Yellowjackets last year on Parallel Motion a new high water mark in their illustrious discography. Jazz-rock fusion has changed over the years and one of the agents of change is certainly Yellowjackets. If you subscribe to the view that the genre was made coherent most by Weather Report and then developed in myriad ways to eventually change into something far more funky in the hands of the greatest exponents of the form these days, Snarky Puppy, the evolution of jazz-rock was later ushered in by bands like Yellowjackets who still act as a bridge back to the original heyday of the genre and face forward through the rugged strength of the ensemble sound and their quality compositions. Parallel Motion reviewed in these pages last August proved not at all blood and guts fusion or overly smooth tat. Yellowjackets are about neither. The form has developed away from stunt machismo in its least successful guise or extensive noodling in, yes, its more interesting incarnation. 'Challenging Times' on the album would not be out of place for instance on an Andy Sheppard record and Bob Mintzer is closer to the sound of players such as UK jazz titan Sheppard (particularly circa Movements in Colour sans Indojazz input) than you might think. The supremely elegant Russell Ferrante's keyboards sound underpins everything on this excellent record. If you like someone like that fine UK player Tom Cawley newbies may well appreciate coming to Ferrante for the first time if still unfamiliar with him or indeed jazz-rock fusion. Bass guitarist Dane Alderson is very much in the Stanley Clarke mould, again a link to the first significant flowering of jazz-rock fusion as it settled into its history-changing phase. Jean Baylor's vocals on 'If You Believe' are like an 80s throwback - a less extravagant Jennifer Warnes perhaps without being flippant - and the melody is very strong. Naturals all, born to play, there is no plan B in Yellowjacketsiana and that stubborn focus and belief is partly what make their incredible body of work so special and this Ronnie's gig is a magnet for fans and curious newcomers who have still to hear the venerable band live alike. Check the new look very smart redesigned Ronnie's website for details.

Sultan Stevenson trio The Bear, Luton Friday 28th

Faithful One is among the very top UK and Ireland releases of the year - see our list and read a review of the Parliamentary Jazz Award winning Sultan of swing whose original sound riffs off a McCoy Tyner and Mulgrew Miller-type base language last year at the East Side. Judith Owen, above. Photo: via Yamaha All Access