Masahiko Osaka & Tomonao Hara Quintet


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Trumpeter Tomonao Hara and drummer Masahiko Osaka are two of the biggest jazz names in Japan, and deservedly so. Favorites is a superb recording of straight-ahead jazz as good as anything that has come out of the United States. Hara is an adept soloist displaying unusual note choices, bends, and phrasing that betray a heavy debt to Wynton Marsalis. In fact, the worst you can say about this group is that they adhere too closely to the neo-traditional style set forth by Marsalis. The opening version of "A Night in Tunisia" could easily be a track off one of Marsalis' many standards albums and is reminiscent of his arrangement of "Caravan." Frankly, though, you could do a lot worse than copping Marsalis and these guys get it right. There is a nice balance between arranged melodies and relaxed blowing that seems at once intensely studied and organic, but never mannered.

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