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Yoko Miwa Trio

Songs of Joy

Review by Gary Hill

Here is one of those releases that kind of borders between the prog and non-prog heading. We usually put fusion under prog. I mean, the difference between jazz prog and fusion is pretty fluid and muddy, so it makes sense. Some of this is more fusion oriented. Most of it has some fusion. For me the thing that put it over the top is the closing track. That one really earns the whole set the fusion label, and therefore landing under prog rock. Whatever you call this, though, it's exceptional jazz. It's also hard to believe at times that it's just a trio, but it is.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Freedom
I love the dramatic piano that brings this into being. The arrangement is dense and powerful as it grows outward. The grows out into a killer fusion jam that is dominated by piano. The later portions get rather chaotic in a good way as it builds upward and intensifies.
Largo Desolato
There is a real old-school jazz vibe to this cut in a lot of ways. It occupies similar territory as some of John Coltrane or Miles Davis' music. That's not to say it sounds like them, but rather it would have fit in their repertoire. Yet, there is still a fusion edge here. This has a great energy and some killer instrumental work.
Song of Joy
A mellower tune as it gets under way, this is a piano-heavy arrangement. Don't miss the bass work on it, though. It's very classy stuff. This one is perhaps not fusion oriented, but more traditional jazz.
Small Talk
This is another old school jazz groove. The piano really creates most of the magic on this number. It has some cool shifts and turns.
The Lonely Hours
I love the mellower movement mid-track on this number. The cut has both elements of fusion and old school jazz in place. There are some really powerful moments later in the number as the piano paints lines of sound over the top of the arrangement. This has a real beauty and majesty to it. It's one of the highlights of the set.
No Problem
Up-tempo jazz jamming is at the heart of this as it comes out of the gate. This includes some percussion breaks and some shifts and changes that pull it more toward the fusion end of the spectrum.
The Rainbirds
Another energized cut, this lands closer to old-school jazz. It's a potent tune with some great melodies and grooves.  This gets very powerful before it's done.
Think of One
Rather crazed and chaotic sounds bring this into being with a decided fusion angle. The cut works out from there with style and charm. This has some particularly cool sections. I love the movement later where the bass really shines in particular.
Inside A Dream
Starting as more of a mainstream jazz ballad, once it reaches the section that focuses on the bass, this twists toward more fusion-based territory in a killer arrangement.
Tony's Blues
I really dig the groove and energy on this number. It lands more in the zone of traditional jazz. It features both exceptional bass work and killer piano playing. The drop back movement late in the track is more on the fusion side and has some particularly strong bass presence and a lot of charm.
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
When you hear this you might think it's a cover of Led Zeppelin. Well, you would be partly right. You see, Zeppelin did do this song. They didn't write it, nor were they the first people to record it. It was written, and first recorded, by a folk musician named Anne Bredon. Now, to get a little more in-depth, the original version of this song was much different from this version, and Zeppelin's. Joan Baez covered it before Zeppelin did, and listening to her version, you can hear that the mighty Zep took some of her arrangement when they did their own. The thing is, they brought their own style to it, and if I had to pin it down, and say that this is likely a cover of the Led Zeppelin version of the song. This version has some pretty crazed sounds and really brings the fusion and even some art rock to bear. Sure, this qualifies as jazz, but there is some really interesting and genre stretching sound here. I love the piano on the mid-section of the piece. I'd have to say that this is one of the strongest pieces of music here. It makes a great closer. Almost eight-and-a-half-minutes long, it's also the epic of the set. The second half really gets into some soaring, nearly rock-based stuff as they explore the sonic space with various musical textures.

 

 
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