Hiroko Kokubu

Bridge

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Often on instrumental releases, the listing of a well-worn pop standard like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" would mean yet another watered down elevator music take. But pianist Hiroko Kokubu's multi-genre, take-the-basic-chords-and-run approach epitomizes the free-for-all spirit of Bridge. A thick, machine generated funk groove and Tom Coster's Hammond B-3 forms a rock-blues base upon which Kokubu's wild, aggressively pounding improvisational twists bend the melody so far out of its usual shape, that she should almost get co-writing credit. She fuses many influences on her own tunes as well, most notably "Keep Home Alive," which rolls along as a lively samba with slower, thoughtful interludes before breaking for a flamenco guitar-led, hand clapping waltz. Then it returns to the samba groove but this time adds a jazz trio flavor and a splash of funk. Playing the melody on the harmonica soundalike instrument piannica, she enhances the next samba with thicker percussion and Andy Narell's always reliable steel pans. These remarkable tunes are so richly textured that the easy, mid-tempo smooth jazz tracks and the introspective, Eastern-flavored ballads - which are certainly pleasant enough - come off as a bit of a letdown.

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