Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Rina: “Rina” (2020) CD Review

Rina Yamazaki is a pianist and composer born in Japan, and currently based in New York. Her self-titled debut full-length release contains all original material, composed by Rina. Rina is already an accomplished pianist, with several awards and nominations to her name. She studied with renowned pianist Makoto Ozone, who produced this album. Joining Rina on this album are Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Jerome Jennings on drums.

The album opens with “Tale Of Small Wishes,” which begins like a dream, or like the memory of a dream, a dream from childhood, a fantasy, a dancing thought that surfaces, emerging from the back of the mind, then growing in power and stature. This is a delightful solo piano piece. Then Yasushi Nakamura and Jerome Jennings join her on “Shadows Of The Mind.” This piece goes through several different sections, as our thoughts do as we are confronted with various obstacles and challenges throughout our day. I particularly like that fast-paced, relentless bass line in the middle of the piece. There is also a cool lead on bass following that section. This becomes a lively track that moves with a city pulse, an east coast pulse. Then “Journey” certainly starts out pleasantly, with an eager eye and a light step, a sense of wonder, and one of appreciation too. Soon this track takes us to a cool place, about a minute in, led by the bass, and it’s like there is a confidence now that we can handle whatever we may encounter on the way, that nothing will be too tough. There is also some expressive drum work on this track, including a few brief solos. Ah, if only the journey of all our lives could sound like this.

There is a sweet and gentle and loving tone to “With You, Always” from the start. It will likely make you think of the people that mean the most to you. And while it is sweet and gentle, these musicians also keep it interesting. I really like that lead on bass. That’s followed by “Foxglove,” a fun track with a Latin vibe and a delicious sense of movement. This one had me smiling pretty quickly, in part because of Jerome Jennings’ work on drums. This track is named after the flower, though truth be told, the first thing I thought of when I saw the title was a big fox fur mitten. While listening, however, I thought of neither of those things, and instead imagined a complex and erotic dance, the participants all with their own desires and designs, coming together and separating and coming together again. Then “Eternal Eyes” is a beautiful piece that feels both romantic and sad, a combination of memory and the present. Ah, don’t we all feel a touch of melancholy when we compare such things? The piano and bass sound like a duet, like two people revisiting the past with slightly different thoughts on it, slightly different emphases, but together nonetheless. This piece becomes even more beautiful and moving toward the end, the way it swells and breathes. This track ends up being my personal favorite.

“J.J.’s Painting” is a delight from its opening, with the focus on the percussion. Jerome Jennings uses brushes; thus, the title. There is a light, playful quality, particularly to Rina’s piano work. And then in the second half, things begin to really move, to fly, and we are just happy to be along for the ride. That’s followed by “Run And Rise.” At the beginning, it feels like someone preparing to accomplish some wonderful feat. And it isn’t long before things are cooking. This track includes a good drum solo just before the end. This album began with a solo piano piece, and it concludes with a piano solo piece, this one a beautiful, gentle, warm and encouraging track titled “Hope.” What better way to leave us?

CD Track List

  1. Tale Of Small Wishes
  2. Shadows Of The Mind
  3. Journey
  4. With You, Always
  5. Foxglove
  6. Eternal Eyes
  7. J.J.’s Painting
  8. Run And Rise
  9. Hope

Rina was released on May 15, 2020.

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