Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Eri Yamamoto Trio - Firefly (AUM Fidelity 2013)

The deeply lyrical and prolific pianist/composer Eri Yamamoto returns to record with Firefly, an all-new collection of wholly original songs, this time performed live in intimate concert, with her decade-long devoted trio of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. Following so quickly on their previous acclaimed album, The Next Page (itself following In Each Day, Something Good and Redwoods), Yamamoto’s consistently luminous writing and the trio’s telepathic performances thereof, is at this point astonishing. The heft of emotional weight and remarkably honed craft once again on full display here is made all the more remarkable for their ability to make it sound so effortless.

This is Yamamoto’s first-ever live album, recorded in December 2012 at the piano showroom Klavierhaus in NYC by renowned jazz photographer and recording engineer Jimmy Katz. Communion with the audience suffuses the performances, and the band stretches out accordingly. Eri’s improvisations dive into and float atop the essence of her melodies and the rhythm of a larger collective heartbeat.

I'd like to note just a few highlights of this well-compelling program:
Hearkening back to childhood memories of catching fireflies with her grandfather, the title track opens with the Japanese folk song which they used to sing together while doing so. “Memory Dance” is profoundly beautiful and among the most moving songs written/performed in memory of fallen friends that we’ve ever heard. “Real Story” is a pedal-point gear-shifter, authoritatively driving and transportational, and one of my personal favorites. The importance of family, sense of place, and yes, fireflies, is reflected in the cover art by Eri’s nephew Leo Yamamoto. We’d like to make special note that her very gifted young nephew has painted the cover artwork for each of Eri’s four Trio albums on AUM Fidelity.

Writing on previous releases, critics have described the trio’s music as “beautifully telepathic and conversational” (Will Layman, PopMatters), “they conjure delicacy and beauty” (Bob Doerschuk, DownBeat), and “each musician is alert to the others felicities .. a wealth of musical detail to savor” (John Sharpe, All About Jazz). The BBC’s Bill Tilland adds, “Yamamoto has a lovely touch and an active musical imagination. Consequently, each piece shines with its own interior light.”

On “Memory Dance”, Eri writes:
“This is a happy song. One of my dear friends, Charlie, loved jazz, and in New York City you could find him almost anywhere that the music was played. He was so open to all styles; many musicians knew him. He passed away early last year; I was shocked when I heard the news, and couldn’t digest it. A few weeks later, on a night off from performing, I had a glass of wine by the window in my apartment. I thought about him and felt so sad. Then I closed my eyes and suddenly he was first in a line of all my friends and relatives who had passed. They were all dancing and circling around me. All of them were smiling, and I felt that they were cheering me up. So I opened my eyes, went to the piano, and wrote down the music they were dancing to.”

Eri Yamamoto website:
AUM Fidelity