JAZU: Jazz from Japan. Review. Miho Hazama. Journey to Journey

JAZU: Jazz from Japan. Review. Miho Hazama. Journey to Journey

Verve Music – 2012

Miho Hazama: conducting, piano

Cam Collins: alto sax, clarinet

Steve Wilson: alto sax

Ryoji Ihara: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute

Andrew Gutauskas: baritone sax, bass clarinet

Philip Dizack: trumpet, flugelhorn

Bert Hill: French horn

Mark Feldman: violin

Joyce Hammann: violin

Lois Martin: viola

Meaghan Burke: cello

Stefon Harris: vibraphone

James Shipp: vibraphone

Sam Harris: piano

Sam Anning: bass

Jake Goldbas: drums

Chris Reza: conducting

Since a young age, pianist and composer Miho Hazama has had clear in mind the musical direction she wanted to follow, aiming at the possibility to mold and carving out a wide palette of colors and sounds from a large ensemble as a way to convey her heart and mind to people.

Indeed, after beginning playing piano at the age of 5, she was soon fascinated by large ensembles and started studying classical composition at 13 years old until obtaining a bachelor’s degree in classical composition at Kunitachi College of Music of Tokyo in 2009.

Soon followed a long series of awards in compositional contests as pianist and composer, then the “big jump” to New York, where she attended and completed a Master’s Degree in jazz Composition at Manhattan School of Music in 2012. Along the way, she also managed to start important collaborations with giants of Japanese music scene like jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto as well as being involved in arrangements and orchestrations works for Vince Mendoza’s renowned Metropole Orkest, New Japan Philharmonic and Siena Wind Orchestra.

Now, in this long awaited debut album as a leader, prolific composer Hazama finally expresses in total freedom the infinite sensibility and talent she possesses.

After listening to Journey to Journey, one can affirm that the result is worth the waiting. The music written by Hazama for this album is rich, sumptuous, dynamic and with so much ideas, emotions and unexpected turns in it to make it even difficult to be defined with bare words.

Hazama’s previous musical apprenticeship, that taught her the grace of a classical composition and the vigor of a jazz band arrangement, make her capable to put these very different music fields naturally together, as if they had always been living side by side, elevating the pleasure of listening to many levels of enjoyment.

Making brass vibrate like fiddles bows and strings moving like a wind section, Hazama displays the refined ability to cross the borders of music genres with all the visas perfectly validated.

In her music when something happens, something else is simultaneously happening somewhere else or is going in an opposing direction, making her compositions acting like relentlessly changing giant creatures, brilliantly shaped by their demiurge.

For the young Japanese composer, music is an amusement park where she likes to lead the listeners and let them get lost in its vast array of marvels and surprises, leaving them stunned by such magic just as a child would do.

Like all great composers, Hazama surrounded herself by great soloists who are like ices on her highly creative cake. Among them, stands out excellent vibraphonist Stefon Harris, who bends the sound produced by his mallets to produce an amazing, almost singing, improvisation on Tokyo Confidential, and violinist Mark Feldman dispensing all his heart and mastery on What will You see When You Turn the Next Corner?

Even the choice of titles like Believing in Myself or What will You see When You Turn the Next Corner? reveal the highly personal level that this work represents for Hazama who reserved for it a remarkable amount of participation and effort, both artistic and emotional, to properly celebrate her Journey to Journey attitude to music writing and life.

Journey to Journey is a surprisingly mature album already containing all the conditions required to turn a musical work into a great musical work, introducing Miho Hazama as a forward-thinking and open-minded personality who reached the firmament of great jazz composers and arranger with one single leap, reinvigorating the field of jazz composition with a brand new-approach and the ability to create music that should be listened to again and again in order that listeners can catch the countless, inspired elements it is composed.