I have been listening to many jazz vocalists lately. the following is a review that first appeared in Jazz & Blues Report.
Born in Japan, yet assimilating American Jazz and singing it with few indications of her origin, Taeko brings a variety of influences into a varied musical program for what is her second recording, “Voice” (Flat Nine Records). She is backed by a group led by co-producer, drummer Doug Richardson (he also is heard on melodica) with Greg Lewis on organ, Lou Rainone on piano, Kevin McNeal on guitar, and Gaku Takanashi on bass and wah wah guitar. Its a band that can lay down some funk as well as dreamy romanticism.
Opening up is a vocal adaptation of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” “Get Up,” with lyrics from Juanita Fleming, Taeko hiply delivers the lyrics against the familiar music, followed by her singing and scatting the Jon Hendricks lyrics for the Monk-Hawkins collaboration, “I Mean You (You Know Who).” “Soochow Serenade,” was a 1940’s hit in Japan and she delivers the Japanese in a lovely fashion with Rainone’s effective, spare piano. She whispers and cajoles the meaning out of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” in an understated manner. I should not imply she is a sultry singer, because she can belt out a lyric and moan, scat like a Rex Stewart trumpet solo with all sorts of half valve effects. She scats and trumpets out the lyrics of “A Clear Day,” before a swinging, rolling piano solo, followed by her original, “Spring Nocturne,” where she goes from a whisper to an all out delivery, followed by her cooing of the Doug Carn lyrics to the Brazilian samba tinged Wayne Shorter composition, “Infant Eyes,” as she entreats the one with infant eyes “To make your dreams come true,” with a lovely guitar solo. “Biwako,” a folk song about Japan’s largest lake and her home town is heard in both Japanese and English renditions is handled with a mid-tempo backing with Richardson taking a melodica solo. Greg Lewis’ organ sets the tune for Ted Daryll’s lyrics to Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” (with its refrain, “he’s sugar to me”), followed by an Ellington indigo ballad, “I Didn’t Know About You,” accompanied by McNeal’s lovely guitar. “Stand,” showcases her ability to provide a jazzy interpretation to the Sly Stone stone soul funk classic with her horn like scatting.
An intriguing recording by a vocalist who displays considerable vocal range as well as her choice of material.
The review copy for this was provided by the publicity firm handling this recording.