Monday Michiru

Delicious Poison

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In 1994, acid jazz cum soul diva Monday Michiru jammed with members of the premier members of Japanese funk-jazz band Mondo Grosso for a club date. The beguiling result prompted the two acts to work together again in 1996, and Delicious Poison is the end result of that studio collaboration. Mondo Grosso is a deep-groove, funky, slippery bunch. Led by keyboard king Hashime Yoshizawa, they are at home in any setting as long as heavy, souled-out groove is the goal. Michiru, who had been working with numerous DJs and electronica mixologists to find her jazz voice realizes it here (and effortlessly, it seems). In fact, it is on Delicious Poison and its follow-up, Jazz Brat, that she learned to dig so deep into that voice she found it home and expanded her palette to include Brazilian and other Latin styles into her bag of tricks. Here she is pure soul-jazz diva. She's got the funk, the grease, the deep move for either singing straight or scatting -- displayed with such gritty grace on "Leaf in the Wind," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (no, not that one, she touches on the Latin tinge for the first time). Flora Purim comes to mind, but so does Patty LaBelle. Singing against the shifting 9/8, then 5/8, then 3/8 meter of the track, she lets her voice slide along the beat, caressing the nuances and accents as she reaches them. There's no hurry, no forcing the issue -- it's just pure vocalizing. Later on "Tattoo My Heart" she gets nocturnal and smoky, touching her phrases with a tad of Motown as well as Roberta Flack and Dee Dee Bridgewater but much more sultry. The set closes with the glorious piano of Yoshizawa dueting with Michiru and finger percussion on "Why Should I Care." Set to a lilting melody in D, Michiru moves the middle to the top of her range without sliding, giving a soulful rendering of the tune and dancing between the melodic and rhythmic elements in the harmony. It's a fitting finish to a truly magical album. Delicious Poison is one of her last funky outings to be sure, but one of her best as well.

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