Doug Yokoyama

Thanks for Stopping By

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Like other improvisers who have been part of the Asian-American jazz movement, Doug Yokoyama believes in keeping his options open. That means he can play either inside or outside, depending on what he feels is appropriate at the moment. It means that his sidemen can use either electric or acoustic instruments. And it means that those sidemen don't necessarily have to be Asian; Thanks for Stopping By, in fact, finds Yokoyama leading an interracial quintet that unites him with violinist/vocalist Jen Shyu, drummer Jimmy Biala, electric bassist John-Carlos Perea and electric guitarist Vinnie Santino. The vocals that Shyu provides are wordless improvisations, and ultimately, Thanks for Stopping By is more of an instrumental album than a vocal album. It's also an album that reminds us how musical avant-garde jazz (mildly avant-garde, that is) can be. Favoring an inside/outside approach, this 2003 release is far from an exercise in atonal chaos. Not that there's anything wrong with atonality; however, that isn't what Yokoyama's group is going for. While his introspective, AACM-influenced material tends to be abstract, the altoist offers discernible themes and melodies, and the other musicians clearly understand where he is coming from. They realize that even though they're dealing with the abstract and the cerebral, they don't have to be totally to the left: there's still room for musicality. Shyu, for example, is highly musical. As both a vocalist and a violinist, she adds a lot to the album, and at times, her wordless vocal improvisations bring to mind Judi Silvano. Whether the playing is inside or outside, Thanks for Stopping By is an excellent disc that Yokoyama should be glad to have in his catalog.

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