1. Intro Voice 0:09
2-1. What a Wonderful World 7:09
2-2. What a Wonderful World
3. Cheek to Cheek 4:32
4. Grand Canyon 8:07
5. My Foolish Heart 5:13
6. Senor Blues 8:39
7. I’ve Never Been in Love Before 4:43
8. Nardis 4:23
9. Mysterious 4:27
10. Good Morning Heartache 5:58
Total time: 53:20
Isao Suzuki, Viola de Gamba
Kunihiko Sugano, piano
Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, piano,
Johsei Sato, piano, Roland
Takeshi Nagayama, guitar
George Otsuka, drums
Takayuki Koizumi, drums
Makoto Rikitakie, drums
Producer: Yoshio Terada
In nearly a century’s development, jazz music, an original American musical form, has inspired musicians from every continent to infuse the genre with constant supply of new materials. Therefore, it is no wonder that jazz has become the predominant contemporary music type of many. Jazz is at its most evocative to me when it chronicles the comradery and musical exchanges between a band and its central figure, giving the main instrument not only the complements and contrasts it needs, but also evoking a sense of purpose and serenity.
Japanese musicians’ contribution to the jazz pool in their Eastern complexion and sentiments is notable. Japanese jazz musicians, whose music I have experienced since my teenage years, excelled at forging music that communicated their inner minds, bringing you into their own world. For contemporary talents like saxophonist Malta, trumpeter Tiger Okoshi, and guitarist Takanaka, they are in their finest element when blazing new trails in new compositions, and their finished products are oftentimes incredibly refreshing even in repeated listening year after year.
Senior jazzmen from Japan, on the other hand, often chose to express themselves through established classics, which establish themselves in turn as a creative force of a formidable league.
To the prestigious elders in the Japanese jazz scene, I must now add Isao Suzuki, in a much belated, recent musical encounter that took place 30 years after Mr. Suzuki’s first Blow Up. Now 70 years old, Mr. Suzuki certainly sounds not as impulsive and temperamental as younger players, if he had ever been that way at all.
The instrument he plays in this CD is a “Viola de Gamba”. From the XRCD’s liner notes:
“More noteworthy is Isao Suzuki who played the instrument called ‘Viola de
Gamba’ (used in the baroque period) not cello or piccolo base. The
instrument made Suzuki say, ‘After much trial and error, finally I met this
compelling instrument.’ He will excite audiences with ‘New Isao Suzuki’ for
The musician I heard was not only a master at the viola, he has a level of ease and refined intuition that is unique even in the Eastern school.
What A Wonderful World, Cheek To Cheek
The evergreen classic is pondered upon in two full-length iterations, each infused with irresistibly pungent flavors only seasoned musicians could muster. “Cheek to cheek” is a tongue-in-cheek sound-bit sounding no less ingenious, as if the piece was conjured up by guys getting together after lunch to let their energy flow a bit before taking a nap.
“Grand Canyon” is a 6-minute demonstration of liberal jazz playing in the hands of musicians in top form, as the gears are changed from a slow, relaxing pace to an upbeat procession 3 minutes into the music. Musicians with lesser confidence and skills would certainly sound more hesitant and incoherent.
My Foolish Heart
Listen to “My foolish heart” and you’ll swear you’ve never heard a viola with such sophistication of character. It is an utter treat to experience a viola-type instrument sounding so expressive, be it of classical or jazz.
And off the band goes again in “Senor Blues”, an eight-and-a-half-minute excursion interspersed by dance-like segments in abrupt separations. Sounding surprisingly effective in these gentlemen’s hands, this exercise enticed the listener in a joint, continuous quest for their point of destination. Incidentally, the drummer has a magical way of restarting the segments every time other members of the band bring a segment to a finalizing stop. This drummer’s artistry and creativity is just crazily abundant; I’ve never heard of a drummer so powerful in his hold on the entire band with such gentle touches.
I’ve Never Been In Love Before
The way they reenact “I’ve never been in love before” is a showcase of what jazz can do to a resounding classic. They begin this familiar piece to a slow drive – only for the first minute or so, and then swing it all over the stage in another episode of fun in their customary ease.
“Nordis” is the fastest reiteration of this piece undoubtedly, and everyone in the band has so much to say, that the entire ensemble literally goes into a hypnotic cycle of emphasis and dialogues. And each time the track is over, I am left with the incredible yearning for more of the dialogue-like exchanges.
Mr. Suzuki’s own “Mysterious” is a brilliant invention from years of distilled sentiments and reflections. Another showcase of what a viola-type instrument can communicate, each time his fingers traversed across the strings, Mr. Suzuki emanates spectrums of sonic color that project directly into the listening space. It is an utter marvel that a 70-year-old musician can make an instrument sounding so unconventional.
Good Morning Heartache
We finally come to the last track, “Good morning Heartache”. Now, if you’ve ever been heartbroken before, you will likely agree with Mr. Suzuki and his friends on how to get on with your life as they see it.
Each track in this CD is rendered with expertly playing that comes through as made by only the best in business. Whether you are familiar with them or not, you’ll find the name of each track a perfect descriptive of the music therein. But that’s just how amazing Mr. Suzuki and his friends are.
With each passing moment, you begin to echo what the entire ensemble is doing in support of Mr. Suzuki’s imagination and improvisation, and you’ll shake your head in disbelief of the supporting cast’s prowess, and you’ll smile. Amidst the perpetuating piano and percussions, I could appreciate the unity of the band and the wonder in each member. There is a continuous exploration and insistence in the music playing, and if you listen with your heart, you will hear it, too.
Each JVC’s XRCD24 gives me tremendous satisfaction repeatedly in the tonal clarity, and the XRCD24 process allocates more dynamic breathing room for the music consistently, making music sound more natural. In my opinion, the fact that the 47 Lab PiTracer used in this review is the one CD transport that never fails to liberate a world of timbres only proves the potential these wondrous discs harness.
This disc is worth buying not only for its sonic gains, but also for the superiority in its manufacture. Foremost, for the disc mastering and manufacturing process, there is the Rubidium master clock, the most powerful time measurement component ever conceived that is ten thousand times more accurate than a standard crystal clock. Then, the proprietary master stamping process recreates an XRCD equivalent of the original glass master, with such remarkable adherence to pit depth and layer centering that induces the 47 Lab PiTracer to exhibit utterly stable reading motion during disc reading. Non-XRCD discs, many of them from classic and major labels, would cause the PiTracer to self-adjust extraneously to trace as many pits as possible.
Sonic advantages accorded by the XRCD are evident at various levels. An XRCD played through the 47 Lab PiTracer and Audio Note DAC 5 Special surpasses an SACD played through the Sony SCD-777ES SACD player; but even the SCD-777ES sounded exemplary when playing an XRCD.
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