Junko Onishi

Piano Quintet Suite

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Pianist Junko Onishi's CD has the feel of a Charles Mingus date, a condition helped out by the inclusion of two Mingus tunes, Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" (here attributed mistakenly to Duke Ellington) and the episodic "Piano Quintet Suite." Onishi is a strong pianist who retains tight control over her colorful sidemen yet gives them freedom within the structures before reining them in. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (a Mingus alumnus) excels in this setting and takes a surprise vocal on "Take the 'A' Train" (to an extent imitating Ray Nance imitating Betty Roche) while Japanese altoist Elichi Hayashi hints at but does not directly copy Jackie McLean. Bassist Rodney Whitaker really swings, drummer Tony Rabeson is excellent in support and two of the highpoints are a fresh new version of "Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk" and "Naturally" which is based on "Lullaby of Birdland." This spirited music is easily recommended.

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