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Tomoko Miyata :: This Side Up
by Ron Sagye La Rue

Tomoko Miyata-Vocals,Producer, Kei Kawauchi-Piano, Tommy Curse-Bass, Gus Kund-Drums, Edson Gianesi-Percussion, Bob Sheppard-Tenor Sax,Flute
Colin Walker-Guitar, Thomas M. Cimarusti-Accordion

This Side Up is Tomoko Miyata's debut CD and if you listen I think you'll hear something different, in her approach to these "now" Jazz standards on this CD. I emphasize "Now" because outside of "Line For Lyons" and "Afro Blue";the other songs on This Side Up were originally popular tunes sung by pop singers. And if it weren't for jazz artists like Tomoko these songs would be lost to the ages. Though tunes like "The Very Thought of You" and "Cry Me A River" are usually associated with the 1950s and have been sung time and again. Tomoko today gives them fresh new life, infusing her own style and identity on them. Just feel her sound on "Very Thought" an up tempo number to "Cry Me A River" a timeless ballad she handles the highs smoothly and holds notes seemingly effortlessly. Even when she falters a little on the lyric "you" when singing "just to prove you do" ones not really bothered. She has voice energy.

Its effecting when Tomoko changes registers from low to high or the reverse,she doesn't strain. What is very important and positive thing about this CD is there is a great deal of variety; Tomoko on "Line for Lyons" sings a duet with herself(over-dubbing) but its NOT gimmicky! She scatts(wordless singing)and she's very good at it too! I mentioned variety a few lines above, she sings in four languages English,Spanish,Portuguese and her native Japanese.

Even on some songs sung in English there is a Latin feel in the rhythm section which I might add is excellent. This Masquerade by Leon Russell has that latin rhythmic feel. Just under six minutes with its shifting tempos keeps the listener alert has all kinds of interesting moods hot,sensous,funky,mysterious it covers a lot of ground. This Tomoko version of "This Masquerade" should get airplay by some hip DJ. Another thing Tomoko is not afraid to let the supporting musicians flex their musical muscles,that's something the late Betty Carter did. And only confident singers do that. "Here's That Rainy Day" is a ballad duet voice and the piano of Kei Kawauchi two voice complementing one another beautifully. Kei plays some meaningful arpeggio style piano. It is very challenging to sing well-known music convincingly but I believe Tomoko Miyata has succeeded. The pacing of "This Side Up" is like it was done in nightclub setting in front of a hip audience.

Afro Blue forever will be linked to John Coltrane even though Mongo Santamaria the Afro Cuban composed it with lyrics by the recently late Oscar Brown Jr. For this writer "Afro Blue is worth the price of the CD alone! Having heard this composition many times this version is very deep and spiritual the total sound is amazing the sonorous flute,Tomoko's vocals(words and wordless) enchanting, check the way she goes from low to high notes. The way she says "coco hue" it just does something.... Kei's piano cooks the piece is set-up like a suite. Bassist Tommy Curse has a nice interlude mysteriously beautiful. Drummer Gus Kund's drumming is masterful and one of the high points of the piece. After "Afro Blue" There is a brief pause so don't turn off your CD player because there's a hidden track "Asahi ni Naritai"(not listed on the CD) "I Want To Be Your Sunrise" sung in Japanese. Even if you don't understand the lyrics with just the guitar of Colin Walker its a very sensitive and warm sound. With the rash of young singers appearing currently on the scene, its a welcome relief to have someone like Tomoko Miyata making her debut with "This Side Up" who has her own identity and sound. She can do so many things with her voice,and she has knowledge of the history of Jazz many facets.And her musicians of choice fit her many musical moods.The human voice IS a musical instrument--the FIRST! To put the unique vocal impressions of Tomoko into your record library go to WWW.TOMOKOMIYATA.COM

published 23.06.2005 2005 jazz news :: home page

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