Hiromi Kanda

Days of Yesterday

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The Nagasaki-born vocalist who grew up in Japan dreaming of one day singing the Great American Songbook finally got her chance on her well-reviewed 2010 debut album, Hiromi in Love. On this mostly engaging follow-up, she works with some incredible all-star talent and a lush, dynamically swinging orchestra (arranged and conducted by Matt Catingub, who also snags some well-placed sax solos) to keep her dream going strong. While there are moments when her still apparent Japanese accent distracts from her otherwise strong phrasing and balanced sense of playfulness and emotional intimacy, there's no denying Kanda's loving caress of this material -- from the buoyant "I Love Paris" to the sly romance of "All of Me" and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." It's a bold move to complement nine legendary tunes with three originals (penned by Kanda with her husband, composer/producer Yusuke Hoguchi), hoping they fit right in, but it's a gamble that pays off. "Goodnight Yesterday," complemented by Joe Sample's lush, low-key piano, sets a soft, melancholy tone -- a vibe she also embraces on "Twilight Tears." Even better than those is the third original, the high-energy, sass-filled big-band-driven "Dreamer," which features a fun trio of backing female vocalists who function as romantic encouragers. Sample also adds poignancy to "Memories of You" and "Smile," while another guest, tenor man Pete Christlieb, shines on "It Had to Be You" and "All of Me." Kanda's dream is a noble one that lovers of standards should enjoy following.

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