FAME Review: Kanji Ohta & The Jazz Family w/Jimmy Heath - Our Jazz Family
Kanji Ohta & The Jazz Family w/Jimmy Heath - Our Jazz Family

Our Jazz Family

Kanji Ohta & The Jazz Family
w/Jimmy Heath

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I've always tripped out on foreign singers tackling English lyrics, especially those from the Orient because their emphatics of vocables is so radically different from Western linguistic cadences that the transition becomes another method of inflection, and that's the case with Nabuko Kiryu here on the two vocal tracks, East of the Sun and Strictly Confidential, the latter of which also features a very cool tap dance interlude by David Gilmore. The appellation of 'family' is interesting here, as this live 2002 gig was actually a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the marriage of Kanji Ohta and Tochiko Kiryu, a pair of noted pianists. This disc finally seeing print in America now actually marks their silver (25th) year of connubiality. Then there's the fact that the aforementioned Nabuko Kiryu is the daughter of Toshiko and is married to James Zollar (here), American trumpeter and co-producer of Our Jazz Family.

The much famed Jimmy Heath used to be Nabuko's teacher at Queen's College, and Jimmy Lovelace and Earl May were accompanists to Nabuko and Kanji for their first two albums in 2001. They appear here as well and thus the rounded-out extended family is fulfilled. The basic configuration, though, is the trio of Ohta, May, and Lovelace with both Kiryus dropping in (two tracks each), and Gilmore (four tracks), and Heath (five tracks). Emphasis is on Ohta's piano work, and the guy demonstrates energy and discernment, often a grand flourish, in his approach. Tea for Two is especially surprising, a whirlwind of a rendition twisting the melody around a May pole while dancing a jitterbug.

Then Ferde Grofe's On the Trail is tackled in a rare evocation with Heath bopping in to accompany Ohta. The two go to it for almost 11 minutes, trading off bouts of solos and licks, and, heh!, Ohta infuses a Gershwiny flavor, butting the classicalists up against one another to excellent effect. Heath then chauffeurs George & Ira back to Harlem for a happy romp just before May and Lovelace get their spots in. Very democratic, very musically righteous. Heath's For Minors Only is a highlight of this straight-ahead venture, a spirited uptempo exploration wherein Jimmy just shines, Ohta comping behind him with brio until Heath lays back and Kanji turns things around again, capturing the landscape just beneath Heath's narrative. You get a breather in the romantic ballad The Voice of the Saxophone, another Heath piece, but most of Family is lively and upbeat, a celebration indeed.

Track List:

  • East Of The Sun (Brooks Bowman)
  • Tea For Two (Vincent Youmans)
  • On The Trail (Ferde Grofe)
  • For Minors Only (Jimmy Heath)
  • The Voice Of The Saxophone (Jimmy Heath)
  • Strictly Confidential (Powell / Rosner)
  • There Will Never Be Another You (Harry Warren)
  • The Squirrel (Tadd Dameron)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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