Kazumi Watanabe - Jazz Impression (2009) High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Artist: Kazumi Watanabe
Title: Jazz Impression
Genre: Jazz, Post-Bop, New Age, Fusion, Guitar Jazz
Label: © Warner Music Japan
Release Date: 2009/2016
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 96kHz/24bit
Recorded: May 24-31, 2009 at Astro Studio and Sony Music Studios in Tokyo, Japan. DSD recording, mixing and mastering by Koji Suzuki, Sony Music Communications.
Watanabe celebrated his 40th year as a professional musician by recording a straight-ahead jazz album. His trusted trio includes two top jazz musicians -- Yosuke Inoue on bass and Hiroyuki Noritake on drums. The 11 tracks represent Watanabe's eclectic tastes and cover a wide range of the jazz spectrum, from bebop ('Route 65,' 'Four On Six') and standards to funk ('Meteor') to fusion ('El Dorado'). The program even includes a free improvisation with his long-time associate and drummer Hideo Yamaki ('Hot K'). Masahiro Fujioka and Masato Honda guests with their soprano saxophone on a few tunes.
Forty years after his debut, Watanabe shows has truly become one of the top jazz guitarists in the world. This is a wonderful jazz album with a fresh contemporary feel. Highly recommended for fans of jazz guitar!
All of Kazumi Watanabe’s recordings are top quality recordings of his guitar technique, but his latest release, “Jazz Impression” is an especially joyful and pleasing set of tunes. Clearly, he is playing not from experimentation or from experience, but from a delight in his own exploration of jazz forms. On these 11 new tracks, mostly trio-based but with sax added on three cuts, Watanabe is clearly just enjoying playing his guitar. That’s easier said than done, of course, especially after spending as much time on the fret board and accumulating as many guitar tech-tricks as Watanabe has over the years. He seems to be putting all his experience and technique behind him on this CD to just dig into the songs.
The CD starts out with the first of Watanabe’s originals “Route 65,” a laid-back romp with a highway feel. The bluesy openness grounds the song in tradition but without being stuck there. The trio is tight, centered and ready to ramble. Nothing is overdone; it’s just good hard wailing. “All the Things You Are” lets the guitar sound come through directly and intimately. The guitar sound that Watanabe always aims for is less the issue here, though, than channeling the sound into the beauty of the melody line. That lets a cool, calm vibe emerge.
Coltrane’s “Impressions” moves into moodier territory with subtle chords, full-on modes and emotional complexities. The song swings hard, as does Wes Montgomery’s “Four on Six.” Both tunes are clearly long-time Watanabe favorites, dedicated to musicians who influenced him deeply and whose style he draws into his own. His comfort with taking what he wants from their influence without losing his own sound is rare among Japanese guitarists.
“Meteor,” an original, has great back and forth sax exchanges with Honda. The song is fun and funky, relaxed and congenial, a near-fusion tune that the trio and Honda are obviously digging. Guitarheads might like the CD to stick with the trio only, but Watanabe’s playing behind the sax is just as amazing as his lead lines. Honda and Watanabe obviously delight in exchanging statements on line after line on this lively bouncing stunner.
A pair of tunes, “Cool K” and “Hot K,” show this CD as an evolving project as much as a pre-planned package. That spontaneity is captured well here, with the session feeling coming through here in a confident, cool way. Too often guitar heroes like Watanabe can end up with an over-produced recording, but that is not the case here. These two “K” numbers stretch and twist the melody lines, adding textures of all kinds and staying deep in the moment. The lead lines are vehicles for the intensity of the playing itself.
Watanabe also slows down on “Venetian” and Thad Jones’ lovely “A Child Is Born.” Both of these ballads create a full soundstage, nicely captured on this high quality recording. Inoue’s bass and Noritake’s drums stand out more on these slower numbers, too. The excellent sound recording quality makes it easy to hear all the subtlety of their playing. Their versatility matches Watanabe’s, yet they create a consistent trio sound on every number, fitting the Spanish lilt of “El Dorado”, a classy composition from Watanabe, as easily as the intense free jamming on the last tune, another nice composition from Watanabe, “Inner Wind.” Every song has a different impression of jazz, but they all come together into a whole. There’s not too much more to ask from a CD! --jazzinjapan.com
1. Route65 05:22
2. All The Things You Are 06:12
3. Impressions 05:23
4. Meteor 06:48
5. Four On Six 04:12
6. A Child Is Born 05:44
7. El Dorado 06:55
8. Venetian 06:43
9. Cool K 07:11
10. Hot K 06:04
11. Inner Wild 04:51
Kazumi Watanabe, guitars
Yosuke Inoue, bass
Hiroyuki Noritake, drums
Masahiro Fujioka, soprano sax with effects
Masato Honda, soprano sax
Hideo Yamakai, drums
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