During 30 years of Heisei the performance style of jazz has spread limitlessly, and the way of expression has been expanded by freely integrating with music of other genres. It is interesting indeed to listen to those music, however, I feel even more familiar and relieved with performances based on the tradition of American jazz. I’d like to introduce a number of unforgettable real jazz albums generated during Heisei Era in two parts.
No one has ever been more influential to the world of jazz tenor sax than Michael Brecker after the age of modern jazz. Having the influence of the tradition of better days, his edgy style of sharp tone has given great inspiration to musicians of not only jazz but also rock and pops. We can tell how deeply his music described the era by the fact that the sound itself is categorized as “after Brecker.” Since the beginning of Heisei Era (1989~) Brecker refined his edgy performances, and at the same time, he let us listen to more matured “Brecker’s tune.”
This ballade recorded in 2000 (Heisei 12) showcases such rich expression of Becker. This is the first ballade album in his long career. While cherishing the beauty of the melody, the distinctive phrasing by selecting unique tones spreads his emotion as an arch. The all-star members, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Haden, and Jack DeJohnette, joined as sidemen. It is quite impressive that Brecker plays the instrument generously with the gorgeous and formidable members. The selection of contemporary numbers and minimizing the standard numbers are also attractive. Playing mostly his or the members’ original numbers makes this album quite unique, which is a bit different from many ballade performances. Furthermore, a popular singer, James Taylor, joined the recording of the two numbers including the title track. I heard that the first number Breker performed and recorded with James was <NEARNESS OF YOU>. Even though Breker passed away at the age of 57 in 2007 (Heisei 19), I believe this is one of the albums which keeps him hold a special place in history.
Wynton Marsalis made a nifty debut as a young teenage trumpeter, became the Artistic Director of “Jazz at Lincoln Center,” and won many Grammy Awards in both jazz and classic genres. Wynton, with the thoughts of rising the status of jazz as a great art generated in America and making it widely recognized, produced variety of pieces such as those for orchestra or great suite-type pieces. If you would like to fully feel his jazzy enchantment with overflowing enthusiasm, this is exactly the very best.
It is the live album recorded in 2002 (Heisei 14) in “The House of Tribes,” a theater space located at the lower east-side of Manhattan. It is a small place which will be packed with 50 people. However, because of that, you can clearly recognize the virtuous cycle of the live stage having the audience responds directly to the enthusiasm of the stage and that in turn increases the enthusiasm of the stage further. You can feel the stuffy air of excitement in the recording. The album let you listen to tracks starting from <Green Chimneys>, the rhythmic music by Thelonious Monk, to the end, <2nd Line> at a stretch. There are some rough jam-session like parts, but considering the fact that the hot enthusiasm of music is directly circulated, it is one of the best among Wynton’s entire work.
“Standards Trio” led by the pianist, Keith Jarrett can also be counted as one of the groups rushed through the 30 years of Heisei Era. The group was formed in 1983, but Keith damaged his health and suspended his live activities sometime in the middle of ‘90s, between ’97 and ’98.
The double album recording the stage performances at “Palais des congrès de Paris” in ’99 (Heisei 11) captures the trio in more excellent condition than ever after the comeback which involved in activities vigorously. The trio has a concept of reconstructing and regenerating standard tunes with the drastic sense and touch. We should pay attention to the fact that close to half of the great original pieces of jazzmen such as <Bouncing With Bud>, <Groovin’ High> are included in the repertoire. A number of brilliant performances by “Standards Trio” at the time of increasing groovy atmosphere. Here you can feel the true value of the trio called “Piano Trio Surpassing Piano Trio”
Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to JAZZ JAPAN, STEREO, and others. He joined a big band, Shiny Stockings, as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).