Review: Yoko Miwa "Songs of Joy"

By Hrayr Attarian


Yoko Miwa

Songs of Joy


Yoko Miwa -piano

Scott Goulding - drums

Will Slater - bass

Brad Barrett - bass (11)


Pianist Yoko Miwa’s ninth release as a leader is the aptly named Songs of Joy. The five originals and six standards are infused with a captivating exuberance and Miwa and her trio interpret them with a vibrant virtuosity and elegance. In addition to an infectious cadence and memorable melodies the music contains intricately woven harmonies and delightful spontaneity.


Miwa’s “Largo Desolato” opens with an undulating chorus with hints of melancholy. The pianist lays down resonant chords over her sidemen’s percolating beats before launching into a lyrical and bluesy improvisation. Her graceful and agile performance, filled with breathtaking acrobatics, meanders effortlessly within the piece’s rhythmic framework. Drummer Scott Goulding takes a reserved and charming solo playing off his bandmates vamps ushering in the concluding head.


Miwa starts off pianist Thelonious Monk’s “Think of One” with angularity and whimsy. The crystalline structure of the main theme morphs and transforms with thrilling dynamism. Each musician contributes their own personal expression all the while maintaining the complementary synergy within the group. Out of this collective sound emerges bassist Will Slater’s lithe eloquent extemporization.. The result is a kaleidoscopic and superb take on a classic that Monk himself would have approved.


Singer-Songwriter Anne Bredon’s often covered “Babe, I’m Going To Leave You” features guest bassist Brad Barrett. The latter’s wistful con-arco lines set the haunting mood. Miwa’s cascading keys and Goulding’s sparse chimes and thrums further enhance this cinematic ambience. Miwa deconstructs the song with passion and sophistication both with her pianistic individuality and her subtle and effective ensemble leadership. Hence she maintains the uniqueness of the tune yet remakes it into her own sublime version.


This brilliant album, born out of grief and tribulation, is a life affirming work in a time of darkness and sorrow. As an accomplished artist Miwa and her like minded colleagues are well suited for this task. In its own way Songs of Joy is a suitable balm for these terrible times.


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