The story is that Japanese-born Joh Yamada, 30 years old when he decide to make this recording, was waiting until he had something musically significant to say before he tackled his first recording as a leader. I'd have to agree with renowned pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who guest stars on this album, that Yamada has definitely said it with this recording. Yamada will remind you slightly of a very controlled Michael Brecker, or of early Sanborn, and yes- he can swing with the best of 'em.
Yamada fronts the quartet through some high-energy swingers and rollers like First Step and Rue De La Harpe (the Sahib Shihab penned-favorite from Dexter Gordon/Jackie McLean's The Meeting), and pulls back with some slow-riders like "Bluestone" and "Never Let Me Go", which make you feel like you're riding a train on a quiet, misty night in New York. One thing is true, which is that Cyrus Chestnut adds credence to the set, and compliments Yamada like good sideman (and frontman playing as sidemen) should, without taking away from Yamada's stake as the leader. If you drop the CD in, sit back and turn the lights down, you can picture yourself in the Village Vanguard (or any other smokey jazz venue) listening to this stuff. Yamada's style is solid, bluesy and melodically strict, less the 'bop lion' and more the 'band leader'.
What you have here is a solid, viable debut on Yamada's behalf, a record that invokes many moods and serves as an impressive showcase for Joh's playing and composing skills. It also demonstrates Yamada's ability to live within the melody, without having to blow machine gun scales and runs off the chart to make a statement. Highlight tracks include BlueStone, Rue De La Harpe, Never Let me Go.