Toshiko Meets Her Old Pals is evidently a reunion with some of the Japanese musicians with whom she worked prior to becoming an international jazz star. The pianist, still married to the American saxophonist Charlie Mariano at the time of these 1961 studio sessions, is joined by alto saxophonist Sadao Watanabe and tenor saxophonist Åkira Miyazawa, with the rhythm section shifting between several different bassists and drummers. Her approach to Miles Davis' "So What" is fairly conventional, opening with the rhythm section before the reeds are individually added. More interesting is the descending vamp that she utilizes in her ominous sounding treatment of "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes." The saxophonists hit high gear in the romp through Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," with more than a few obvious references to the tune's source ("Indiana"). The second half of the CD is devoted to originals. Charlie Mariano contributed the constantly shifting bop vehicle "Quebec," while the pianist wrote the upbeat, hip blues line "Old Pals" and the intricate "Watasu No Biethovin," a piece with both solemn classical music elements and fiery bop lines. Long out of print, this album was 24 bit remastered and reissued by King as a CD in 2007.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden