JAZU: Jazz from Japan. Review. Precioso

Hikari Ichihara - Precioso

Pony Canyon – PCCY 30202 – 2012

Hikari Ichihara: trumpet

Koichi Sato: piano

Interview with Hikari Ichihara

After Move On (2010) and Unity (2011), two excellent recordings as a leader of her own quintet, trumpeter Hikari Ichihara takes a break from leadership facing with the more intimate set of trumpet and piano duo, searching for more freedom and expression. This particular setting, indeed, confer to the trumpeter the possibility to bring out more clearly the quality of her sound, and holding a straighter dialogue with her partner, here perfectly balanced by the presence of brilliant pianist Koichi Sato.

The choice of repertory, composed by refined and scarsely frequented standards, contribute to elevate the artistic quality of the session, confering it several elements of surprise. The album opens with the title track Precioso, the delicate ballad written by Sato who pays tribute to “preciosity of passing time and feelings”. The following Seven Steps to Heaven, a standard become famous in Miles Davis’s renditions, possess an arrangement calibrated in the several live performance of the duo. This recording, in fact, seals a musical partnership among Ichihara and Sato started four years ago.

Zingaro an old composition by Carlos Jobim, performed exclusively in its main theme, is indicative of the musical level reached by the trumpeter, sufficient to enrich a tune though any solo is taken. The same happens in The Good Life where Ichihara, performing in solitude, donate the warm sound of her instrument in memory of a dear friend passed away.

Afternoon in Paris is a darting and energic rearrangement of a classic John Lewis’s tune which underlines at its best the ability of the two musicians to dialogue with each other, while running out and into the main theme. The tune is a watershed for the remaining part of the album which continues with a long piano intro by Sato, introducing When or When by the famous composers’ team of Rodgers and Hart. Ichihara joins the pianist at the half of the tune, completing a performance which, jointly with the next Cup Bearers, is among the most catchy and swingy of the album. In both pieces Sato shows up a remarkable control of piano dynamics in which the strong stride-styled bass lines of the left hand coexists with the inspired improvisations of the right hand.

The memories of a three weeks long-staying in New York inspired Hichihara for her only original contribution to the album, Amsterdam Avenue, a piece that gives the recording an even deeper personal and narrative approach. The tune is enriched by a coda in which the trumpeter takes out all her Blues sensibility.

Hikari Ichihara plays trough all the album superbly, showing a deep knowledge of jazz vocabulary, here exalted by a remarkable and mature expressivity as well as a wide range of nuances reminding closely an human voice, always an aspired goal for those expressing through a wind instrument.