Seiichi Nakamura Quintet + 2 – The Boss – TBM/ Master Music xrcd24

Seiichi Nakamura Quintet + 2 – The Boss – TBM (Three Blind Mice)  (1974)/ MasterMusic (2015) xrcd24 NT0143, 46:19 ****:

(Seiichi Nakamura – tenor saxophone; Shigeharu Mukai – trombone; Hiroshi Tamura – piano; Isoo Fukei – bass; Shinji Mori – drums; Yoshio Ohtomo – alto saxophone (track 3); Kazumi Watanabe – guitar (track 3)

The Japanese jazz scene is older than most people know. Influenced by bands from America and The Philippines, the movement took root in communities like Osaka and Kobe during the 1920s. The first Japanese jazz player to garner international acclaim was trumpeter was Fumio Nanri who joined Teddy Weatherford and toured in the U.S. At the same time the conservative government disapproved of the heavily-dominated American cultural influence. There were efforts to introduce local culture into the music, but the onset of World War II stopped all momentum toward jazz. By the late fifties local jazz returned with artists like Masahiko Satoh, Yosuke Yamashita, and Ryo Kawasaki who developed international recognition.

In 1970, Three Blind Mice Records came into existence. The label provided a showcase for era Japanese performers with a high analog quality. In 1974, TBM hosted a series of live recorded performances, 5 Days In Jazz. Now, forty years later, MasterMusic has released one of these albums, The Boss on an extended resolution CD, which still plays without a decoder on any CD deck. Featuring Seiichi Nakamura and his quintet, three expanded live jams have new life. The opening track, “Old Folks” begins with an elegant piano (Hiroshi Tamura) intro.Nakamura delivers a soulful, graceful line that embraces the ballad. He is adept at exploring melody and improvisation. Trombonist Shigeharu Mukai matches the romantic mood with fluency. Double bassist Isoo Fukei and drummer Shinji Mori maintain the gentle, cohesive rhythm. Tamura follows with succinct runs that approximate late night jazz trios as the tempo assumes a faster swing mode. Fukui’s doublebass is a strong counterpoint before Nakamura finishes up in muscular fashion.

The second cut, Toppu: A Gust (a Mukai composition) is polyrhythmic bebop with a furious unison (trombone/saxophone) lead. Mukai solos first and brings a fired-up intensity that pushes the instrumental tone. Fukei and Mori are propulsive. Nakamura is next up and offers his incendiary take which reflects the explosive dynamics of the quintet. Tamura is equally relentless in his tempo-driven take. The longer time allows the instrumentalists to demonstrate their articulation and ferocity. A well-deserved two-and-a half minute solo by Mori (at the 9:50 mark) sustains the flow. Nakamura and Mukai resume unison lead at the conclusion. The finale is a twenty-minute cover of Jimmy Smith’s “The Boss”. Nakamura showcases his skills as a band leader as the musicians pay homage to vintage Verve and Blue Note hard bop.  The song is infused with bluesy swagger. His solo is vibrant and swings. There are two guest stars that add to the band’s dynamics. Guitarist Kazumi Watanabe sparkles in a four-minute solo with an assortment of spirited chords and notation. Tamura, Fukei and Mori hit their peak as tempo anchors. Mukai executes another hard-hitting run, as does Tamura. The second guest star, Yoshio Ohtomo contributes alto saxophone that lends different shading to this wild ride. It may be 1974, but this is classic American-inspired jazz.

The audio quality of this digital restoration is impressive. The mix is balanced and powerful. There is crispness in the tonality, especially the piano. The saxophones and trombones are full-bodied without shrillness. This is very good jazz with quality technology.

TrackList: Old Folks; Toppu – A Gust; The Boss

—Robbie Gerson

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