Chie Imaizumi – A Time of New Beginnings – Capri Records 74104-2, 63:43 *****:
(Chie Imaizumi, composer and arranger; Randy Brecker, Greg Gisbert, Terrell Stafford – trumpets/ flugelhorn; Steve Wilson, Scott Robinson & Gary Smulyan – saxophones, clarinets, flute; Steve Davis, trombone; Mike Abbott, guitar; Tamir Hendelman, piano; John Clayton, bass; Jeff Hamilton & Paul Romaine, drums)
When we reviewed Chie Imaizumi’s last CD for Capri Records in 2007. We noted that her compositions had a joyfulness that was contagious. Her compositions were heartfelt and gorgeous and yet swung mightily. It was feel good music and Chie indicated in her liner notes then that her goal as a composer was to bring happiness to her listeners. At the time that I came across Unfailing Kindness, it was due to a curiosity brought on by the fact that Greg Gisbert and Gary Smulyan were on board. One listen, however, made me realize that here was a special talent.
Well, three years have gone by and Chie is back with another CD that expresses her life’s journey made up of both joy and occasional sadness. Her star has risen in the last three years to such a magnitude that a review of the roster of guest artists above shows that her talents have now been recognized by the cream of the crop of star jazz musicians. Chie’s “band” are almost all leaders of their own groups and it must have been a validation of her talents that brought them to New York in early January, 2010, to bring her vision to fruition. Liner notes indicate that almost all the tracks were done in only one or two takes.
This music will speak for itself as the titles are seemingly self explanatory, expressing gratitude, fear, exploration, challenging the unknown, and the sheer joy of experiencing life. “My Heartfelt Gratitude” opens with a piano intro expressing a sparkling attitude matched by Steve Wilson’s soprano sax and a warm bass solo by the inimitable John Clayton before the horns’ crescendo lights up the mood to shear elation. Not all is joy, however, as expressed in “Information Overload” where the mood darkens as soloist Randy Brecker on trumpet brings Chie’s conflict with our age of “in your face technology” to the forefront. Drummer Paul Romaine adds to the tension as the other horns let loose. Chie’s growth and maturity that all is not always well with the world is a counterbalance to the optimism of most of her work. “Fear of the Unknown” has a tenderness that belies the melancholy expressed by the Arco bass solo of John Clayton. Tamir Hendelman’s accompaniment backed by the horns at song’s end brings a hope that the unknown can open up opportunities for growth.
“A Time for New Beginnings” commissioned by Jeff Hamilton, begins with more Arco bass but soon lets the light in with a triumphant trumpet chorus and then a blend of clarinets and flute with guitar fills. Soon, we have a rousing drum beat from Hamilton. This title track deserves to be heard cranked up to fully appreciate its strutting beauty.
“Run for Your Life” sets up a mood of an Eastern European wedding celebration with the bride and groom kicking up their heels. Gisbert and Stafford have rousing solos on competing left and right channels. “Today”, written by Chie for her best friend, Aya, is taken at waltz pace and blends the higher-toned saxes with piano and warm brass phrasing. Aya should be honored…
“Sharing the Freedom” was premiered at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival by the US Air Force Academy Falconaires and deeply moved the Monterey crowd in its expression of U.S./Japan relations since WW II and its hope for peace. John Clayton’s solo is mixed effectively in with the horns and Chie’s expertise with catchy melody is on full display here. “Many Happy Days” features solos from both Gary Smulyan and Steve Davis, and is an exquisite expression of hopefulness that Ms. Imaizumi has mastered. It is peaceful and relaxing yet avoids saccharine sentiment. This wonderful CD ends with a “Fun and Stupid Song” that is a feature for the multi-talented Scott Robinson who takes a solo on sopranino and then switches to tenor sax. The drum “duel” of Hamilton and Romaine is a treat.
Chie must have had a blast on the 9th and 10th of January of this year leading a super-star contingent who could fully express her joie de vivre. Having this CD in your collection can cure whatever ails you. Highly recommended!
TrackList: My Heartfelt Gratitude, Information Overload, Fear of the Unknown, A Time of New Beginnings, Run for Your Life, Today, Sharing the Freedom, Many Happy Days Ahead, Fun and Stupid Song
– Jeff Krow