Eri Yamamoto / Eri Yamamoto Trio

The Next Page

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Pianist Eri Yamamoto's tunes have always contained an organic sense of swing, post-bop's harmonic equations, a pop songwriter's lyricism, and a classical sense of discipline. Given that she and her longstanding trio featuring bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi have been playing the same bar (Arthur's Tavern) in New York City for the last decade, they have developed a profoundly subtle, spacious, yet utterly modern take on the jazz piano trio. As if to reflect their steady gig, they set up The Next Page in two "sets"; after the first six tracks, a 60-second silence commences before the final five cuts follow. Yamamoto wrote all but one cut here. Her ability to write memorable and catchy, even infectious, melodies has developed considerably over the years, and here it blooms like wildflowers in an open field: "Sparkle Song," the title track, "Dark Blue Sky," and "Catch the Clouds" are just a few examples. Ambrosio's bass playing is a large part of her approach, one suspects. He walks, strolls, and finds vamps and counterpoint riffs inside her harmonic ideas and thereby extends them, ingraining them further in the memory of the listener. She cedes room as a way of moving her compositions along different paths, allowing his rich woody tone as prominent a place in this mix as her piano. Takeuchi's drumming, while never drawing attention strictly to itself, is startling for all its between-beat assertions, contrapuntal engagement, and ability to dance inside any given time signature. One can hear this interaction in revelatory detail on the uptempo "Just Walking," the singsong "Whiskey River," and when the dirgelike opening of "Green Grows" gives way to a sprightly -- nearly funky -- series of bright, spacious harmonic motifs. Takeuchi's "Up and Down" offers a different view of the trio's strengths. It's full of complex post-bop invention and polyrhythmic interplay yet never surrenders its swing even at its most speculative. The closing "Swimming Song" contains all the delight of Vince Guaraldi's lyricism framed within a bluesy, richly arpeggiated chord structure, a knotty piano solo, and a fingerpopping rhythmic framework. Evidenced here, Yamamoto's solos have evolved from deceptively simple statements to ones that find new improvisational terrain. The Next Page is the Eri Yamamoto Trio's finest offering to date.

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