Stanley Clarke (with Hiromi): Sakura Sakura
Stanley Clarke Trio (with Hiromi and Lenny White)
Jazz in the Garden (Heads Up 3155)
Traditional Japanese folk song.
Recorded: Los Angeles, December 13-14, 2008
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
Fusion-bass-meister Stanley Clarke settles into an acoustic trio format for his 2009 Jazz in the Garden CD, but here's the surprise—he brings along pianist Hiromi Uehara for the outing. Hiromi (she usually goes by the single name) is also typically associated with synthesized sounds and keyboard flash, but here she adopts a very understated approach to a non-electrified Yamaha grand piano. She has a sweet, soft tone on this jazz version of a traditional Japanese folk song, and is not out-of-place matching wits with a bassist and drummer who made their mark with Chick Corea during the glory days of plugged-in jazz. I wish she was a little more integrated rhythmically with bass and drums on this track, but her phrases are smart ones, and while she floats, Clarke pushes the song forward with great vigor. Even when he indulges in gentle koto-like lines on the bass, the strength of his conception is evident. If you didn't know this was Mr. Clarke's leader date, you still might guess it just from how much the music seems to radiate from his basslines. The lamely Adobe-ized cover makes one long for days of Bill Claxton and Francis Wolff, but the music here dispenses with the gimmicks and holds up well on repeat listenings.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia