An amalgam of Cajun jazz, cabaret chic, Latin samba, and bebop, pianist Kanji Ohta’s latest endeavor with his band the Jazz Family entitled Our Jazz Family is comprised of one jovial tune after another. A live recording taped in September 2002, Our Jazz Family features bebop saxophonist Jimmy Heath and Latin percussionist David Gilmore. Rounding out the band is his wife and fellow pianist Toshiko Kiryu, Toshiko’s daughter Nabuko on vocals, bassist Earl May, and drummer Jimmy Lovelace. The band’s communication on the recording breeds a fertile exchange that’s catchy resulting in merriment and an amiable atmosphere.
A union of Cajun jazz and cabaret, “East of the Sun” showcases Nabuko’s dense vocals modulated to vibrate in harmony with the uplifting decorum. The trickling keys and prancing tempo of “Tea for Two” imbues a Broadway showtunes feel advancing into a bebop style brigade in “On the Trail” boasting cheerful booms from Heath’s saxophone whose notes form an eloquent narrative in “For Minors Only” strapped in Latin-tinged shuffling and jiggling keys.
The pacifying tone of Toshiko’s keys inject a reposing effect through “The Voice of the Saxophone” as Heath’s saxophone blazons a matrix of rippling swirls. The old fashioned swing-jazz raptures of “Strictly Confidential’ is touched up by vignettes of David Gilmore’s tap dancing feet entrenched in the track. Jumping keys are layered with stringent drumbeats in “There Will Never Be Another You” and transition to a jubilant mood in “The Squirrel” with spurts of bouncy instrumentation.
Kanji Ohta and the Jazz Family cover several stages of jazz music’s evolution from its early years with swing and bebop to modern smooth arias and Latin dance-based rhythms. Their live recording Our Jazz Family shows a band that lights up when playing jazz idioms, feeding off each other and finding new sonic expressions when performing as a cohesive unit.
Kanji Ohta – piano, Earl May – bass, Jimmy Lovelace – drums, Toshiko Kiryu – piano, Nabuko Kiryu – vocals on “East of the Sun” and “Strictly Confidential,” David Gilmore – conga and tap dancing on “Strictly Confidential”
East of the Sun, Tea for Two, On the Trail, For Minors Only, The Voice of the Saxophone, Strictly Confidential, There Will Never Be Another You, The Squirrel, Credits