Monday, February 9, 2009

All of You w/Lee Pardini + Yuichi Hirakawa



"All of You" written by Cole Porter
Lee Pardini (Keyboard)
Noriyuki "Ken" Okada (Bass)
Yuichi Hirakawa (Drums)
Recorded live on Feb 3, 2009 at Sumika, Los Altos, CA

So here's "All of You" from February 3 Sumika gig. This song was written by one of the greatest composers of all time, Cole Porter. As often seen in his compositions, this tune has a bright color with slight touch of shade, which I like very much.

After vamping in the intro, the theme (or "head") starts from 0:21. I used 2-beat feel with some rushing or delaying to make it sound interesting, with the intention to start walking in 4 beat sometime later. With Lee's cue, I start my bass solo from 1:00. I extended the 2-beat floating feel for my 2-chorus solo, finally starting to accelerate by running bass line to bridge to Lee's keyboard solo. Yuichi and I were perfectly in sync on the groove change. Even from 3:39 to 3:48, we nicely synchronized in "suspending" the groove and restarting. It was great that we pleasingly locked the groove while backing Lee's solo. A good swing feel like this will never make you bored! (Um, that's called "praising your own painting" in Japanese proverb...)

There were so many nice interplays like the motif of quarter notes from 3:56 to 4:01, or the motif using syncopation from 4:14 to 4:22. From 5:42 starts Yuichi's drums solo. It could sound like a free solo but it actually flows over the tune's chord changes in constant tempo. As I start to play the last section of the song from 6:42, Lee joins in to build up to get back to the theme (or "head out").

So we play the head out from 6:49. If you listen closely, you will notice the brief call-and-responses between Lee and me. After 7:24 is the ending (or "outro"). In general, whether or not you play the outro is decided on the fly depending on the momentum of the sound. This time we had pretty nice solos that made us feel like playing a little bit more, so we played some lingering outro with some floating feel. As Lee cues from 8:11 by playing the last phrase of the head, we end the tune.

My favorite moment of this recording is definitely Lee's keyboard solo with the swing groove generated by Yuichi and me. Just as they say, it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Guest from New York

A while back, my billiards friend Naoki-san introduced me to his NYC-based friend Yuichi Hirakawa. Yuichi is a talented drummer who graduated from Berklee and have been playing in the city for over 14 years, often performing with the world-famous guitarist Masuo. He happened to be visiting the Bay Area this week so I asked him to play at Sumika on February the 3rd. We are musicians - I couldn't just ask him to stop by to see the show. You have to play together!

Then I wondered who else I should call for this show. Since it's a guest from NYC, I asked pianist Lee Pardini, a graduate from Manhattan School of Music, to have a flavor from the city. Together with the little fact that I was born in New York, we could call it an instant "New York Trio".

Matt Toshima was so kind as always to let me use his studio's drum kit. When I arrived at Sumika a bit early to set up the instruments, Yuichi was already there. "You must be Okada-san. Nice to meet you." He was a friendly and cool looking guy. As we set up the equipments, Lee showed up with his keyboard. Everything was getting ready. I had a mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement, and already knew that it was going to be a great night.

Starting the show from 7:30pm, we played 9 standard tunes such as "How High the Moon", "How Insensitive" and "All of You". It was such an enjoyable session that we felt it so short. Yuichi's steady groove was so easy to play with, and it often allowed me to comfortably take risks to expand ideas on bass lines and phrases. Although the drum kit was a very basic set of bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and one cymbal, he kept generating sophisticated phrases. He was cool enough to say "I used to play heavily in subway stations. This kit is just like the one I used then. Perfect for me."

Lee on keyboard was on fire too, with his signature accuracy in time and mastery in various chords. With a soloist this good, all you have to do is to provide simpler bass lines that actually result in greater performance quality.

Lee and Yuichi even had common friends in the city, and there were many venues both of them knew. I recalled about when I was visiting there several years ago - a friend of mine took me to a bar in Greenwich Village featuring a band just like us: keyboard, bass and drums. It was such a wonderful night that I almost felt as if we were playing in a club in New York!

So I'm going to spend some entries to introduce some captured moments from this great gig. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sea Journey w/Daniel Raynaud + Jeff Hanson



"Sea Journey" written by Chick Corea
Daniel Raynaud (Keyboard)
Noriyuki "Ken" Okada (Bass)
Jeff Hanson (Drums)
Recorded on Jan 20, 2009 at Sumika, Los Altos, CA
[Jazz at Sumika vol. 70]

For some reason, this tune is called pretty often recently. Silicon Valley is quite a small area, so maybe the trend in song selection is quickly shared. I really like this tune, though I have never checked out the original recording by Chick Corea (I should). The bass pattern and the flow of the tune truly expresses a journey on a boat traveling through open sea. Very nice composition.

I actually missed one note in the intro (the 6th note), but hopefully you'll never notice it. The way Jeff rubbed the cymbal on the stick was very effective. I had never seen such use of cymbal! Very cool. The theme (or "head") starts from 0:30 and lasts until 1:50, followed by Daniel's solo. He improvises over chord of A minor, until he cues on 3:19 to go into chord changes of the head melody.

From 4:20, I play bass solo over A minor. I wanted to change the mood so I used motifs in 16th notes. After playing for a while, I was almost running out of idea, when Daniel suggested to go back to the head at 5:38. Thanks Daniel for saving my butt! 6:50 starts the ending (or "outro"). This type of tune is nice with some lingering sound, so we played the outro long.

When we think about Jazz, some swingy 4-beat groove is typically the first thing to come into mind, but modern jazz sound like this is very cool too. Jazz indeed covers so various types of sound, and that's why I'm into it. And I'd say the greatness of jazz music heavily depends on the fantastic compositions of jazz giants in the past. I so truly respect them.