Japanese Archive

The Wonderful World of Jazz – John Lewis – mono Atlantic 1375 (1961)/ Pure Pleasure

The Wonderful World of Jazz – John Lewis – mono Atlantic 1375 (1961)/ Pure Pleasure

A fine John Lewis vinyl with Eric Dolphy, Gunther Schuller and Jim Hall! The Wonderful World of Jazz – John Lewis [TrackList follows] – mono Atlantic 1375 (1961)/ Pure Pleasure Records *****: This wonderful jazz mono vinyl has been reissued numerous times now (including Japanese pressings), but perhaps this version bests them all – though I haven’t heard all of them. With the original artwork on the front of the Atlantic release (including the photo of Lewis by Tom Dowd) and the complete notes by Ralph J. Gleason, plus the great sonics, this is a winner. Nesuhi Ertegun supervised the album. The 1960 personnel change around for the five tracks here on the two sides of the vinyl. It includes, besides Lewis on piano, Paul Gonsalves and Benny Golson on tenor sax, Jim Hall on guitar, Connie Kay on drums and Herb Pomeroy on trumpet. Lewis was for a time the director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, and he has a much more complex musical personality than just the pianist of the Modern Jazz Quartet. This album includes two of his original tunes: “Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West” and “Afternoon in Paris.” Their beauty is brought out more than […]

The Handmaiden (2017)

The Handmaiden (2017)

An interesting plot-driven film with quite a twist. The Handmaiden (2017) Actors: Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Tae Kim, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim Director: Chan-wook Park Studio: Amazon Studios/ Sony Pictures Home Ent. 49278 (1/24/17) Video: 2.39:1 for 16:9 screens Audio: Korean DD 5.1 Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish Length: 145 min. Rating: ****1/2 The same director has already given us Old Boy and Stoker, and this is a ravishing crime drama based on a book by a British author providing a singular, no-holds-barred yet stylish viewing experience from Park. It is a complex tale at heart of a young moneyed Japanese lady living on a secluded estate during the time of the Japanese conquest of Korea, with a young Korean woman hired to serve as her new handmaiden.  The Korean woman secretly plots with a con man to defraud the Japanese lady of her large inheritance, but there is quite a twist. There are almost shocking scenes of the two women having sex. This film should appeal to the lesbians reading this strongly, but it is also an amazing viewing experience that you will just have to see for yourself to find out how it all plays out. I must […]

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (2016)

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (2016)

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi (2016)  You might want to pass this one up… Performers: Chorus & Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House/  Joyce DiDonato, Olga Kulchynska, Benjamin Bernheim, Roberto Lorenzi/ Fabio Luisi (cond.)/ Christof Loy (stage director)/ Franck Evin (lighting designer) Studio: Accentus Music [9/30/16] Length: 139 min. Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 screens, color Audio: DTS-HD 5.1, PCM Stereo Subtitles: English, German, French, Japanese Ratings: Audio: ***    Video: ***  One hopes the best for productions of Vincenzo Bellini’s operas, especially—unlike his Norma and il Puritani—the ones out of the repertoire. They still have marvelous music in them. I Capuleti e i Montecchi (1830) is his take on the famous story of Romeo and Juliet, quite different in plotting from Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (1867). (A contemporary reviewer called Gounod’s opera “always pleasing, though seldom impressive.”) Bellini’s version shimmers like a silver medallion given at an opera-writing competition. Bellini was just establishing his bel canto style and it shines on through. Cast as a “trouser role,” mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato does a splendid job as an indignant and feisty Romeo, more acting than acted upon (unlike Gounod’s Romeo). Olga Kulchynska’s Giulietta is marvelous in several notable arias: her […]

Audio News for Tuesday, November 8, 2016

75% of Japanese Want Hacker Protection for Devices – Japanese consumers are very concerned about hacker attacks on the smart electronics in their homes. Most want an automated update service that prevents unauthorized access to data in devices over the Net. Electronica Trend Index 2020 surveyed 7000 consumers in seven countries and the Japanese consumers were the most aware of the data risks associated with smart electronics. But many Japanese also see smart electronics as a way to reduce risk in many areas of their lives. 79% favor alert systems making it safe for older people to stay in their own homes longer. And 74% want a car that autonomously alerts police and reports its location when stolen. New Google Home is a Winner – It competes with Amazon’s Echo and may be a better deal, but the sound from it is terrible. It is a Wi-Fi speaker that reacts to voice commands like Echo, but with shocking accuracy. The vast Net knowledge of the search giant is part of its free Google Assistant app that comes with their Pixel smart phone. It is a personal and customized helper. It’s very small (smaller than the Echo), looking like a futuristic […]

BACH: St. John Passion (A ritualisation by Peter Sellars) – DVDs & Blu-ray (2014/16)

BACH: St. John Passion (A ritualisation by Peter Sellars) – DVDs & Blu-ray (2014/16)

An unsettling visual version of questionable value, but high musical marks. BACH: St. John Passion (A ritualisation by Peter Sellars) – DVDs & Blu-ray (2014/16) Performers: Mark Padmore (Evangelist)/ Camilla Tilling (sop.)/ Magdalena Kožená (mezzo)/ Topi Lehtipuu (tenor)/ Christian Gerhaher (bari.)/ Roderick Williams (Jesus)/ Berliner Philharmoniker/ Rundfunkchor Berlin/ Simon Rattle Director: Peter Sellars Studio: Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR140031, 2014 (2 DVDs and Blu-ray disc) Video: 1080i Full HD for 16:9 (Blu-ray) Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS 5.1 (DVDs), 2.0 PCM, DTS-HD MA 5.1 (Blu-ray) Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean No Region Code Length: Concert: 135 mins, Extras: 52 mins. (in Hi-Def on Blu-ray) Digital Concert Hall: 7-Day Ticket for the Berliner Philharmoniker’s video streaming service Rating: *** This is the BPO’s second Sellars foray of this type into Bach, the first being the St. Matthew Passion a few years back. What type, you ask? Well, a dramatization of the passion. And I’m a long way from being convinced about it, despite the slobbering European press and other predictable quarters hailing it as “revelatory”. Perhaps I am simply being overly-religious in my sentiments; I have always found that the Bach passions speak very well for themselves, with a simplicity and directness […]

Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra – Portraits and Places – Origin

Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra – Portraits and Places – Origin

Big band jazz which blends past and present. Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra – Portraits and Places [TrackList follows] – Origin 82710, 57:02 [5/9/16] ****: (Scott Reeves – conductor, Flugelhorn; Steve Wilson – soprano and alto saxophone, flute; Vito Chiavuzzo – alto saxophone, flute; Rob Middleton and Tim Armacost – tenor saxophone, clarinet; Jay Brandford – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet (tracks 1, 4); Terry Goss – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet (tracks 2-3, 5, 8); Seneca Black, Nathan Eklund, Bill Mobley, Andy Gravish – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Tim Sessions, Matt McDonald, Matt Haviland – trombone; Max Seigel – bass trombone; Jim Ridl – piano; Todd Coolman – bass; Andy Watson – drums; Sara Serpa – voice (tracks 3-4); Emi Miyajima Nobe, Yuzuki Nobe – Japanese dialogue (track 3)) There’s inspired music coursing through the debut album by the Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra. During the hour-long Portraits and Places, Reeves shows many inspirations, from pianist James Williams (his résumé includes stints with Art Blakey and Clark Terry as well as jazz education) to composers such as Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. Through eight compositions (seven originals by Reeves plus one by Antonio Carlos Jobim), Reeves takes his large ensemble for a swinging ride replete […]

Hanami – The Only Way to Float Free – ears&eyes

Hanami – The Only Way to Float Free – ears&eyes

Chicago jazz/improvisation with a Japanese cultural connection. Hanami – The Only Way to Float Free [TrackList follows] ears&eyes ee16-042 40:20 [4/22/16] ****: (Mai Sugimoto – alto saxophone, clarinet; Andrew Trim – guitar; Jason Stein – bass clarinet; Charles Rumback – drums) The name of the jazz quartet, Hanami, is the Japanese word for ‘flower viewing,’ specifically the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. That’s appropriate. On Hanami’s debut, the 2014 self-titled Hanami Quartet, the band shaped Japanese folk songs into improvisational jazz material. The foursome continues in a similar vein on their sophomore release, The Only Way to Float Free. This time only one number is a recast version of a Japanese folk song, but the quartet’s originals have an innate, organically-generated aesthetic which elevates the sounds and tones Hanami established on their first album. This forward-thinking, Chicago-based ensemble includes Japanese and American musicians. Mai Sugimoto (who studied jazz in the US) is on alto sax and clarinet; Andrew Trim (who spent his childhood in Japan and later joined the Chicago jazz/improv scene) is on electric guitar; Jason Stein (also part of the Chicago music community; he’s performed with Mike Reed, Greg Ward and others) is […]

East Side Sushi (2016)

East Side Sushi (2016)

A heartwarming story about never giving up on your dreams. East Side Sushi (2016) Cast: Diana Torrese, Yukata Takeuchi, Rodrigo Clark Director: Anthony Lucero Studio: Sony Pictures 47500 (5/6/16) Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 screens, 1080i HD color Audio: English DD 5.1 Subtitles: French, English, Spanish, English SDH Extras: Deleted scenes, “Behind the Sushi,” “Behind the Music” Length: 106 min. Rating: **** This engaging feature got a 100% score at Rotten Tomatoes. It concerns a Latino single mother who lives with her small daughter and her father. She has run a fruit-vending cart for years but is just not making it. She passes a Japanese restaurant which is looking for workers and is intrigued by both the food and security and benefits. She even learns to fuse sushi with her own Mexican culture and becomes a professional sushi chef. She is aided in her quest by a friendly Japanese sushi chef in the restaurant, but the owner of the place shuts her out not only due to her race being wrong but also because she is a woman. She fights back, and even takes part in a TV show competition, where she comes in second. But in the end she is […]

“Blurred Boundaries” = Contemporary works by Libby Larsen and others – Navona

“Blurred Boundaries” = Contemporary works by Libby Larsen and others – Navona

“Blurred Boundaries” = LIBBY LARSEN: Sorrow Song and Jubilee; HENRY THACKER BURLEIGH: Plantation Melodies, Old and New; FLORENCE BEATRICE PRICE: Five Folksongs in Counterpoint; ERBERK ERYLIMAZ: Thracian Airs of Besime Sultan; HAJIME KOMATSU: Four Japanese Folk Songs; MARTY REGAN: Splash of Indigo – Apollo Ch. Players (Matthew Detrick, violin/Anabel Ramirez, violin/Whitney Bullock, viola/Matthew Dudzik, cello with Ismail Lumanovski, clarinet/Timothy Pitts, bass/Matthew McClung, percussion)– Navona Records NV6038, 69:45 [Distr. by  Naxos] (4/08/16) ****: Lovely collection of folk inspired works by some new names. B01CUUF5AC The Apollo Chamber Players is, basically, a young and quite talented string quartet plus guests. Their playing is magnificent and their ideas in programming are fascinating. In this, their latest Navona release Blurred Boundaries, we hear commissioned works from the great ‘veteran’ American composers Libby Larsen and Marty Regan, as well as from the winner of Apollo’s inaugural International Commissioning Contest, Turkish composer Erberk Eryilmaz. These three commissions mark the beginning of “20 x 2020”, Apollo’s initiative to commission 20 new folk music-inspired works by the end of the decade. This seems like a terrific idea and, based on this release, the results will be outstanding. It would be a mistake for any prospective listener to dismiss […]