Akira Tana's second CD as a leader for the Japanese label Paddlewheel doesn't restrict itself to the same jazz standards and frequently recorded jazz works. Instead, Tana and his bandmates (frequent collaborator Rufus Reid on bass and pianist Ted Lo) rely on a mix of originals, lesser known gems by talented other jazz musicians, and a trio of Chinese folk songs. Lo's snappy post-bop "Jewel's Eyes" would fit the repertoire of talented composer/pianists like Kenny Barron, Donald Brown, Mulgrew Miller, or James Williams. Tana contributed the tense, somewhat mysterious "Skyline," while Reid's "No Place Like the End of the World" is a lovely ballad, accented by Tana's tasteful brushwork. Horace Silver's "Sweet Stuff" is hardly one of his better known pieces, so the trio's rendition of his delicate ballad is an obvious highlight. Guitarist Gene Bertoncini wrote "Sofflee," a very intricate reworking of the chord changes to the standard "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," which showcases the leader's brushwork in some terrific exchanges with Reid. Jaco Pastorious penned "Three Views of a Secret," a subtle but upbeat ballad. Tana's idea to incorporate Chinese folk songs works very well. "Moon Over the World" has a pop sensibility, but the lovely melody and superb musicianship keep it viable. "Condor Man" was once a theme song to a popular kung fu TV show, yet Lo's imaginative samba setting likewise keeps it from falling into predictability. "Reflections of Love" begins as a ballad before suddenly segueing into a wild post-bop arrangement, with Tana's exciting drum solo as its centerpiece. Since the Paddlewheel edition of this highly recommended CD is somewhat difficult to obtain, most jazz fans will be pleased to learn that Sons of Sound reissued this release in the U.S. in early 2004.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden