Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cider – Hard & Sweet

In all the years I have fiddled with this blog, I have written about music from time to time, but I don’t recall ever reviewing a CD. There’s a first time for everything…

Of late I have found I can listen to certain types of music when translating as long as it’s instrumental and I’m not super familiar with it. So my work-related playlists have gravitated toward obscure Baroque composers and jazz fusion. I also recently subscribed to Apple Music, which gives you a weekly “New Music Mix” based on your stated tastes. I find its accuracy in the 70-80 percent range (by which I mean, I skip or dislike 20–30 percent of the songs any given week). 

But for all the skips and the times I've muttered "WTF, Apple Music?" it's actually not a bad feature, and it has introduced me to more than a few new artists I've come to really enjoy. To wit, about two months ago, a song from the latest CD by Japanese drummer Senri Kawaguchi (iTunes Canada link: Cider – Hard & Sweet) came up in my New Music playlist. I immediately went to listen to the full album, and I've been playing it about once a week ever since.

Kawaguchi is a young female drummer and apparently somewhat of a phenom. Finding out anything about her is a struggle because she doesn’t have much of a presence outside of Japan, and her own website is not translated. But suffice it to say that at the tender age of 20, she’s already recorded 3 solo albums and a number of others with other artists. Clearly, the kid is talented. Her earlier solo recordings are good but definitely the product of a young musician. This new CD though, is mature in every way. 

Cider – Hard & Sweet  lured me into a broader exploration of Japanese jazz fusion, which I knew little about other than a longstanding love of Hiromi Uehara. And while I have enjoyed this little escapade, I can’t say I’ve been blown away. With a few notable exceptions (Casiopea, for example), I find much of it on the tacky side or leaning too far to the pop end of the spectrum for my taste.  

But back to Kawaguchi… It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a jazz fusion album so much; everything about this CD puts me in a good mood. That said, one of my pet peeves with digital music in general and streaming services in particular is that composition and performing credits are usually few and far between. So it took some digging to learn the names of the sidemen (Philippe Saisse: piano and keys, Armand Sabal-Lecco: bass, Gumbi Ortiz: percussion). It's even harder to determine the writing credits (according to wikipedia, Saisse composed 5 of the tracks). But one thing's for sure, every track on this CD is rock solid on both the playing and writing fronts. It’s well-produced, well-balanced, and the playing just oozes joy. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Here's a little sample. The video is over-edited, but the tune is wonderful. 

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