Michael Doherty's Music Log
The music on this album was recorded back in May of 2018, without the aim of an official release, but rather as a way for the musicians to remember and revisit their time together. But fortunately for us, drummer Kenichi Nishio decided to have friends professionally mix the recording, which led to this release. The group is made up of Joseph Howell on clarinet, Keigo Hirakawa on piano, Kenji Shimada on bass, and Kenichi Nishio on drums. They open the album with a delightful rendition of Joe Henderson’s “Serenity,” with Keigo Hirakawa shining right away on piano. His lead both flows and hops, over that great, loose groove, and it seems he could carry on like this forever. But eventually he gives way to a lead by Joseph Howell on clarinet, which has a wonderfully playful quality, like a sprite or some other fanciful creature dancing in bright sunlight. The track then mellows a bit as Kenji Shimada begins his lead on bass. But there is a great cheer to his playing, which keeps the energy moving. “Serenity” is the first of three Joe Henderson compositions on the album. The other two are “Jinrikisha” and “Mamacita,” both from fairly early in the saxophonist’s career. “Jinrikisha,” in fact, is from his debut LP, Page One. The version here features some excellent work on piano, which moves with a wonderful sense of freedom. And then Joseph Howell’s lead ends up soaring and flying. “Mamacita” is an inherently fun number, and these guys do a great job with it, Kenji Shimada getting it going on bass. They get into the spirit of the music, cutting loose, and I particularly like Kenichi Nishio’s work on drums. This track has something of a playful ending. This group also delivers a version of Tadd Dameron and Count Basie’s “Good Bait” that should have you smiling before too long. The joy these musicians take in their craft is obvious. They wrap up the album with a tender, gentle, beautiful rendition of “My Foolish Heart” and a cool version of “Take The A Train” on which each of the musicians really shines. This album was released on February 11, 2021.