In my review of "Forever", their previous CD, I wondered what would happen with this great Japanese chamber quartet, now that bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu has sadly passed away. Rather than looking for a new bass player, they invited Yasuko Kaneko to join on trombone. The other band members are still Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, Satoko Fujii on accordion and Kazuhiko Tsumura on guitar.
For fans of the quartet, the overall sound is not dramatically impacted by this change, the music is still a mixture of old European folk music with avant-jazzy improvisations and colorings outside of the lines. The music remains soft-spoken, with precious themes and solos that can go totally "out there" on a basis of rhythm and melody.
If anything, the music is sadder than ever, if that's possible, with some devastating soloing by Tamura, who really outperforms himself on "Nanook", making his horn cry and wail in between the pure warm tones in the intro section, and Kaneko's trombone adds some wild additions to this in a duet with the trumpet near the end of the tune.
Fujii and Tsumura offer harmonics to the horns in the most senstive of fashions, well illustrated by the careful build-up of a single accordion note and sparse guitar chords to evoke the title's "Rainy Day".
The music has become more ethereal, with more open space, with less dense arrangements, and the more explicit dance rhythms that could be heard on the band's earlier albums has completely disappeared, as do the themes in a way, and interestingly enough, this evolution seems to work well, keeping the music fresh, authentic and offering fans something new instead of more of the same.
A moving album.
Available from Instantjazz.