Japanese pianist/composer Taeko Kunishima brings forth a musical melding of Asian exoticism, European romanticism, and American swing on her latest release for 33 Jazz, Red Dragonfly. The London based musician draws on her Japanese heritage to create an original, heartfelt recording.
As a composer, Kunishima is extremely engaging; she creates angular, meditative landscapes, drawing inspiration from impressionist and modern sources. The contemplative "Cold Winter" alludes to Miles Davis’ collaborations with Gil Evans; "Tears in the Rain" has the harmonic sensibility of Debussy with the temperament of Herbie Hancock, and the spirit of Monk is evident on "Full of Moonlight."
Amongst Kunishima’s own compositions are arrangements of two Japanese folk songs. "To Be Scolded," with its Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays inspired groove, is a highly energetic romp featuring the mammoth tenor saxophone tone of Russell Van Den Berg. "The Moon above the Ruined Castle," a repetitious medium swinger, is as close as this session gets to straight ahead blowing.
Kunishima’s impressive band members, providing flawless support, each play an integral role in shaping the leader’s vision. Van Den Berg’s rich toned soprano dances elegantly across the jagged 5/4 tempo of "Night of the Hazy Moon" and the pensive "Misty Mountains." Drummer Jim Hart demonstrates dynamic layers of sensitivity and bassist Richard Pryce is unrelenting, delivering a solid, personalized foundation. Guest artist Clive Bell adds an element of serenity to the title track and "Ink-Black Night" with the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese flute.
The music on Red Dragonfly is captivating. Kunishima’s composing and piano playing have an appealing charm; she has an uncanny way of drawing one in for repeated listening.