Are You Happy Now

Yoshiaki Masuo

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Are You Happy Now Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Here's a blast from the past if Sonny Rollins fans of the '70s remember guitarist Masuo. He's back with an organ combo featuring Larry Goldings on the keys and Lenny White at the drum kit. Though there are distinct echoes of his prime motivator, Wes Montgomery, an occasional fusiony taste creeps in from Masuo's playing and the slight synth wash that comes in on some of these nine tracks. Primarily, Masuo is a tasteful single line artist -- no effects or accoutrements blocking jazz pathways here. The lone cut not written by Masuo is John Lewis' "Skating in Central Park," an easy waltz that has more guitar chordal emphasis than all the other selections combined. Goldings is a very tasteful organist. He can lay back as on the "Cry Me a River"-like ballad to blues ("Josephine") or the sweet swinging ("For the Old Boys") with help from Rudy Bird on conga. He knows swing backward and forward, as proven during the good vibed title track, and gets a bit uppity and anxious during the strutting "Walkin' Around," trading fours with guitar and drums in outlandishly atypical ways. There's a lone piece, "Snap Jam," with three support woodwinds that goes from funk to swing, and a zinger -- the deep, modal, patient three-note anthem that informs "E.J." The band gels best when Masuo jumps into massive single-line runs as on the up numbers "Small Steps," and especially the highlight "Miles Run," which is infected with the most interplay between the three. White holds his end up quite well -- no histrionics or bombast, just good, solid swinging and supportive rhythms. A self-taught musician who has languished in studio production for over a decade, Masuo has emerged with this enjoyable date to re-establish himself as a premier jazz guitarist in the modern mainstream.

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