Monday, December 12, 2016

Michika Fukumori: “Quality Time” (2016) CD Review

I first listened to jazz pianist Michika Fukumori’s new album, Quality Time, several months ago, and loved it. It was exactly what I needed. Then for some reason I set it aside, and just now came back to it. And again it is exactly what I need. Things are going sideways out there, folks, as I am sure you are well aware. Just today some twit on Twitter said he reported me to Secret Service because of a comment I made about Donald Trump, so yes, U.S. citizens are turning into eager little Nazis already. I hope those Secret Service guys enjoy reading my music reviews. Anyway, I feel very strongly that it is music that is going to carry us through the upcoming quagmire. And Michika Fukumori’s CD seems just the thing to get me through the night. Nothing like some good relaxing piano jazz to make us feel human again, eh? Here she delivers some beautiful renditions of familiar tunes, as well as treating us to some original material. Joining her are Aidan O’Donnell on bass and Billy Drummond on drums.

Michika Fukumori begins the album by covering a couple of well-known composers: Jule Styne and Antonio Carlos Jobim. And what a great and surefire way to improve anyone’s mood. Jule Styne’s “Make Someone Happy” will work every time. As the lyrics tell us, “Love is the answer/Someone to love is the answer.” You get that message clearly in this instrumental rendition too. Plus, there is a good lead section on bass. Then her rendition of Jobim’s “Someone To Light Up My Life” has a certain sweet joy. It sounds in this version that the person has found that special someone and is no longer questioning where he or she will be found.

Michika Fukumori then gets into her original material, beginning with “The Story I Want To Tell You,” which has a light and friendly touch, a warmth, particularly in her work on the piano. Aidan O’Donnell provides another good lead on bass. That’s followed by “Luz,” which is one of my personal favorites. It is beautiful, tender, thoughtful and gentle. At times, this music is like a caress, so light as to not wake us if we do drift off into sleep, music that will watch over us, keep us safe.

The pace then picks up with a version of Steve Kuhn’s “Looking Back,” a tune that was the title track of the Steven Kuhn Trio’s 1991 release. By the way, Steve Kuhn, a well-known jazz pianist himself, produced this album. This track features some great playing by Billy Drummond, including brief drum solos. Michika then returns to two more original compositions, including “Quality Time,” the disc’s title track, which features a nice bass solo. “Cat Walk” is a very cool, playful tune, with even something sexy in its bass line. This is another personal favorite.

“Cat Walk” is followed by Duke Ellington’s “Solitude,” a song that has been covered by a lot of folks over the years and somehow always manages to be effective. Another of the disc’s highlights is Michika’s rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s “Lucky To Be Me,” a song from the musical On The Town. This track has a wonderful, positive vibe, something we can use more and more of these days. I love the honest joy of her playing. Michika Fukumori concludes the CD with a lively, delightful version of “That’s All,” a tune written by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes, and famously recorded by Nat King Cole.

CD Track List
  1. Make Someone Happy
  2. Someone To Light Up My Life
  3. The Story I Want To Tell You
  4. Luz
  5. Looking Back
  6. Quality Time
  7. Cat Walk
  8. Solitude
  9. Velas
  10. Lucky To Be Me
  11. Somewhere
  12. That’s All
Quality Time was released on June 3, 2016 on Summit Records.

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