Junko Sumi

Junko Sings Japanese Nursery Rhymes

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This album is not what you expect if you're going by title alone. Junko Sumi's somewhat raspy voice is backed by a grooving jazz band of Japanese musicians. The liner notes don't provide a translation of their names, but the label site does: heard are pianist Yuko Takada, saxophonist Hiroyuki Shiotani, guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, bassist Masatoshi Koi, violinist Keisuke Ohta, percussionists Masaki Yoshimi and Kei Wada, and occasionally harmonica played by Chikara Tsuzuki. Of this skilled group of musicians, the two percussionists are standouts on the tabla and kendang -- unusual as jazz instruments, but heard here on over half the cuts. And yes, despite the presence of these instruments and the fact that the songs are originally Japanese nursery rhymes -- sung here in English and, occasionally, Japanese -- this is most certainly a jazz album, and a sophisticated and upbeat one at that.

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