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Little Abi from the last Masabumi Kikuchi studio album streams

One of Masabumi Kikuchi's best known compositions in a new farewell version 'Little Abi' is on the remarkable Hanamichi that is streaming ahead of the album's 16 April release on the new Red Hook label. One of six solo performances, the final …

Published: 22 Mar 2021. Updated: 31 days.

One of Masabumi Kikuchi's best known compositions in a new farewell version 'Little Abi' is on the remarkable Hanamichi that is streaming ahead of the album's 16 April release on the new Red Hook label. One of six solo performances, the final studio recording by the great pianist, is jaw dropping and inspiring. Such intimacy, pure gestalt, concision, succinctness and above all sense of space delineated, it is humbling to listen and feel the music's presence.

Photo: Tae Cimarosti/Red Hook

Tags: News

Being moved by jazz

Top of the moanin' to you. Carmen McRae got me thinking. Does it ever get any better? And did we ever in the end all get healed? Reading music criticism and then following up and actually listening to what writers are elaborating upon is often a …

Published: 22 Mar 2021. Updated: 9 days.

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Top of the moanin' to you. Carmen McRae got me thinking. Does it ever get any better? And did we ever in the end all get healed? Reading music criticism and then following up and actually listening to what writers are elaborating upon is often a frustrating experience. Does it even matter in the slightest? The art exists all by itself after all.

Take the instance when someone, a well known writer worth believing not into the less deceiving by any means, reviews something negatively that you take the exact opposite position on and instead love. Or the other way round, all raves and trebles all round from reviewers and yet you can't stick the album. It's the worst thing you've heard since, oh, Dave Koz plays the Cliff Richard Songbook. (Wakes up. Scared. But it was only a future A&R dream.)

It makes me wonder. As we all know drilling down into lists of people's favourite records at the end of each year is a fairly ridiculous although compelling pursuit that throws up (regurgitates at times) very different results even within the same speciality of jazz.

There are several reasons why. The main one is that jazz is not a monolith and the reason why there are so many 'sub-genres' is because within its canopy there are all sorts of groupings and hybrids, often substantial discographies, dazzling edifices in some cases backed by the cream of the rootytoot trainspotter influencerati, on their own.

Where's the cure?

To go back to the question of liking/disliking it may seem heretical in a toxic social media age that you have to park that atavistic urge: the thrill to troll, the leap to lol. Of course you will feel one way, the other or just apathetic (it is perfectly valid to be bored, in itself an honest reaction).

As listeners we need to go further. I am not arguing, however, that we have to sit around stroking our noble chins all day before bidding farewell to the faithful hound: ''the mutton's in your bowl. Off to ascend Kilimanjaro. Will jot you a line''. However, engage the brain, work out why and what you like/dislike/are bored by. It will be worth it and open up a world of jazz and you never know the deeper you go the true meaning of the blues.

The highest praise is if a tune, a song, moves us. That isn't going to happen every day to be frank because it is the ultimate. But when it happens, to draw on the runic words of Bill Shankly, inspirational manager of Liverpool FC, inserting ''jazz'' in place of ''football'': Some people think jazz is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that. SG

Carmen McRae, top, it's that ''in the end'' bit when we miraculously as ever listening to great jazz do get healed. 'Yesterdays.' The way she sings the Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach song from the early-1930s operates on 2 levels, a certain feeling before and then later (from 2mins 32 secs) when Lockjaw and all swing it. A mood piece? Make that bluesy and bitter, before; sod it anyway, the delivery a sort of a cynical playful shrug, later.