Megumi Yonezawa / Masa Kamaguchi / Ken Kobayashi - Boundary

Label: ESP-Disk

Personnel - Megumi Yonezawa: piano; Masa Kamaguchi: acoustic bass;  Ken Kobayashi: drums.

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New York-based Japanese pianist Megumi Yonezawa co-leads a sharp new trio with fellow countrymen, bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Ken Kobayashi. Integrity, freedom, and an extraordinary improvisational facility are part of the group’s philosophy, and Boundary proves their individual and collective value in the process of creating spontaneously from predetermined ideas.

Toggling between the fragile and the firm, the title track is a sparse, unhurried, and deeply explorative piece that is ultimately taken by a stubborn tension. While pianist and bassist paddle in the same direction, the drummer, immersed in a precipitate brushwork, seems to get his own way without putting in cause the cohesiveness of the whole. “Meryon” is driven by a similar calm/tension duality. The initial vagueness and ambiguity, triggered by floating bass notes, will drive you to search the palpable, and yet, little by little, our ears begin to dig the virtuosic communication process between these three ramblers. Their steadfast actions end up in a compulsive dance of short high-pitched piano flurries, instinctive bass attacks, and intensive drumming.

Alone and confident, Yonezawa slowly cooks a blend of fragmented phrases, loose notes, and parallel motions to compose the introductory section of “Alchemy”, a pure avant-garde exercise that grows considerably in intensity toward the end. The pianist creates fantastic shapes over the bass-drums foundation, which, despite vigorous, feels constantly unobtrusive to her moves. This is also audible on the energizing “Tremor”, a song that achieves a punchy rhythmic infatuation through a propelling, nearly swinging groove that supports the assertive exclamations and affirmations uttered by the pianist, who develops her phrasing from a specific rhythmic figure.

Another stirring moment arrives with “Onement”, where a relentless note on the piano becomes the axis that will allow Kamaguchi to revolve around it with multiple acrobatic moves. Yonezawa brings in occasional counterpoint with the nuanced comping before the tune turns into a kaleidoscopic showcase for hypnotizing timbres. The language, rich and highly articulated, includes trilling obliques, penetrating harmonic progressions, and epic rhythmic strolls.

Even the most reflective moments convey an intrinsic complexity whose wide emotional range feels enthralling. It happens not only on “I’ll Be Seeing You”, a jazz standard captured with the freedom of a non-standard and piqued by the background stimulus of Kobayashi’s chops, but also on the wishful “Veil” and “Nostalgio”.

The plenitude of a fully integrated trio sounds like this. Boundary takes you to unimaginable places, making you not to want to return to your point of origin. Consequently, I hope this visionary Japanese trio has plans to continue experimenting together in the future.

       Grade  A-

       Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
03 - Tremor ► 05 - I’ll Be Seeing You ► 08 - Onement


Megumi Yonezawa Trio - A Result of the Colors

Megumi Yonezawa: piano; John Hébért: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

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Hokkaido-born pianist, Megumi Yonezawa, summoned the consistent bassist John Hébért and the reliable drummer Eric McPherson to be part of her trio. A Result of the Colors, released on Fresh Sound New Talent, is the product of their musical experience and chemistry, and love for the music. 
The pianist’s refined musicality has enchanted not only Jason Moran, who wrote her a deserved recommendation, but also Greg Osby, with whom she played in his 2004 album Public alongside trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Rodney Green.

Yonezawa’s debut album opens elegantly with the sophisticated title track, which outspokenly tells us with which colors she intends to fill this nine-track palette. “Children of the Sun”, a rhythmically audacious song with interesting melodic accentuations, instantly triggered a favorable reaction in me. Spreading class over the ballroom, the trio arranged this one as a dissimulated jazzistic bossanova. This first couple of tunes is decorated with Hebert’s sculptural bass solos. 

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hide” reflects the mutability of the characters it makes reference. Hebert and McPherson throw themselves at a vivid swing that serves as a tight guideline for the pianist’s bright melodic incursions.

The shortest piece of the recording, “Sketch”, is enveloped in a peaceful yet experimental musicality, in opposition to the unique cover of the album, “For Heaven's Sake”, a well-defined ballad written by Don Meyer, Elsie Bretton and Sherman Edwards in 1958.
Embarking on a fantastic instrumentation, the trio fabricates “Nor Dear or Fear”, making us rejoice through a juxtaposition of hard-bop breezes and Monkish postures. 

Challenging in her approach, Yonezawa possesses a strong technique with flexible, independent hands constantly seeking to choose the right notes and weaving propitious textures to compose the whole. 
Strongly influenced by Thelonious Monk, Keith Jarrett, Greg Osby, Jessica Williams and Bach, the pianist proved capable of speaking with her own voice. 
A Result of the Colors is a fearless, positive debut, objectively oriented to captivate and make us ask about Yonezawa’s future moves.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite tracks:
02 – Children of the Sun ► 04 – Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hide ► 07 – Nor Dear or Fear