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Album Review

A number of artists have guested with the SWR Big Band in Europe for record dates, but the appearance of pianist/composer Toshiko Akiyoshi is definitely a special meeting. Having broken up her own big band a few years prior to these 2007 sessions after finding it difficult to get sufficient opportunities to record and perform, her demanding bop charts inspire this all-star European orchestra. On this occasion, the band devotes two CDs to recording their guest's charts. Starting with her "Drum Conference (3rd Movement)," a lively bop reworking of the standard "After You've Gone," it is clear that the band is on fire. The influence of Bud Powell on Akiyoshi is apparent in her driving "Harlequin's Tear" (which is also heard in a separate live rendition at the end of disc two), while her Japanese heritage is a key ingredient in the mournful "Kogun," which features flautist Jörg Kaugmann and the composer. "Let Freedom Swing" is an unusual affair, a dramatic number with spoken text read by Dagmar Claus, but also a swinging uptempo big-band instrumental. The second disc begins with the furious bop vehicle "Lady Liberty" suggesting the hustle and bustle of New York City. "Pollination" is another haunting Japanese theme, featuring Kaufman again on flute and alto saxophonist Klaus Graf. She revisits her lively bossa nova "Warning! Success May Be Hazardous to Your Health" in a sterling performance by the SWR Big Band. Even though Toshiko Akiyoshi is no longer working regularly with her big band, these 2007 sessions with the talented European all-stars are a reminder how talented a composer, arranger, and bandleader the pianist is.


Born: 12 December 1929 in Dairen, China

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As an arranger, Toshiko Akiyoshi (influenced originally by Gil Evans and Thad Jones) has been particularly notable for incorporating elements of traditional Japanese music into her otherwise bop-ish charts. A strong (and underrated) pianist in the Bud Powell tradition, Akiyoshi was born in China but moved to Japan in 1946. She played locally (Sadao Watanabe was among her sidemen) and, after being noticed and encouraged by Oscar Peterson, studied at Berklee during 1956-1959. Married for a time to...
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Top Albums and Songs by Toshiko Akiyoshi

Akiyoshi, T.: Let Freedom Swing, Toshiko Akiyoshi
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  • 17,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 01 January 2007

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