Kuni Mikami

Peace

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Many of the recordings that came out on Asian Improv in the 1990s combined avant-garde jazz with elements of traditional Asian music. But you won't find anything avant-garde on Peace. The influence of Japanese music is quite strong on this CD, but Kuni Mikami doesn't get into outside playing -- rather, the Tokyo-born pianist/keyboardist and his all-Japanese combo East of the Sun (which includes flutist Yoshino, guitarist Michi Takai and percussionist Chihiro Matsumoto) combines Japanese-influenced melodies and harmonies with post-bop, fusion and crossover. Mikami's influences range from McCoy Tyner and Chick Corea to Joe Sample -- Tyner's influence is especially prominent on post-bop pieces like the tranquil "Spring Song" and the pensive "The Point of No Return," whereas Mikami is more Sample-minded on funkier offerings such as "Mamuro River Ondo," "Bird in a Cage" and "Amani Dancers." You can't really call Peace innovative -- Tyner started experimenting with Asian influences in the 1960s and even played the koto (a traditional Japanese string instrument) on 1972's "Valley of Life." Even so, combining jazz with Asian music isn't something that has been done to death in jazz. So while Peace isn't quite groundbreaking, it's fresh-sounding and far from generic. Highly recommended.

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