Sunday, May 6, 2018
Yoko Miura & Gianni Mimmo - Departure (Seto Di Maiale, 2017) ***½
Japanese pianist Yoko Miura and Italian soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo find a perfect musical blend for this gentle and sophisticated album. The music itself is genre-defying. It sounds like a modern classical piece of music, austere, precise, controlled, with a clarity of expression and sound that is almost too pure for the nervous expressivity of jazz, yet at times the latter's agitation and raw delivery pierce through, not too often, but just enough to keep the sound pallette shifting and adding new musical perspectives.
'Crystal Moon', the third track, is a good example of this: it starts with a playful melody on piano, a kind of lullaby, gently repeated by the soprano, gradually slowing down as if to accompany a child towards its dreams. Yet the purity of tone starts shifting into sudden multiphonics and unexpected harmonic twists and turns. Halfway the composition, Miura takes it back to its beginning, yet in an altered form, inviting Mimmo to more daring and violence. The mood changes completely. The chords get rougher, the sax louder and more expressive.
The album starts with 'Prologue', followed by the title song. Both are beautiful pieces of 'controlled passion', a description which is one of the foundational aspects of Japanese art, focused on taking away the redundant (in haiku poetry, in pen drawings, calligraphy, ...) in which the intensity and the emotional power remain perfectly balanced in sparse notes and cautious interplay.
The second longest piece on the album is called 'Boogie Woogie Wonderland', and it somehow does not fit with the overall sound. It's too basic, too rudimentary, too plump, and in stark contrast with the refinement of rest of the album. This is clearly also not Mimmo's preferred environment.
The last track, called 'Rain Song', creates the same magic again of austere playfulness, if that term exists. The composition/improvisation evolves and develops in a sophisticated way, full of precision, economy of action and lyrical interaction. Both musicians find each other, listening attentively and responding gently. They sing, they dance. With precision.