Now Megumi has released her debut album A Result of the Colors (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT504). Joining her are bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson on this, her debut album as a leader. Megumi has written all of the songs on the album with the sole exception of For Heaven’s Sake.
The album opens with the title track, A Result of the Colors. The piano and bass introduce the piece. With her credentials, there can be no doubt that Megumi will meet any expectation as far as performance goes. What was left to examine was her writing and arranging abilities. That, too, met and exceeded all expectations.
In the trio format, and with two exceptional band mates, Megumi is able to express herself completely and to maximize the impact of her artistry. Her phrasing is excellent and her touch is precise.
Herbert’s bass solo is finely wrought and also has a deep emotional impact. When the piano returns atop the bass, the results are stirring. So very well-written and brilliantly performed.
Children of the Sun is a lively work with a bouncy introduction. Herbert and McPherson carve out a cool groove and Megumi works off of it smartly. I found myself smiling broadly at her enchanting delivery of the piece she herself crafted so well. She has moments like Keith Jarrett and that influence is enough to win me over completely.
Herbert and McPherson work in tandem flawlessly and truly flesh out Megumi’s vision of the music.
The third track is titled Untitled. The bass and drums work on something lyrical beneath the piano’s melodic lines. Then the piano and bass answer each other softly in a quiet dialogue between them. It is another example of Megumi’s excellent writing talents.
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde opens with a menacing, albeit alternating, melodic suggestion that is taken up by bass and drums. There is clear division within the strident motifs. The piano and bass are at odds and the drums keeps up the rhythm until the abrupt—and fitting—full stop.
Sketch has a haunting quality that is irresistible. Herbert’s bass lines run in opposite directions from Megumi’s piano and then together. McPherson’s heavy drum beats add to the air of mystery.
For Heaven’s Sake is the only piece not written by Yonezawa. It is a lovely piece that is performed extraordinarily well by Megumi. It is a gorgeous ballad and the trio makes it come alive in many different ways. The piano work is like something Bill Evans would enjoy. The bass lines are warm and the drums are fascinating. Listen to this one over and over and pay attention to all three musicians.
This may be my favorite piece on the album.
Nor Dear or Fear has a quirky, odd-meter opening that is catchy and fun. The bass and drums get into a great swing and Megumi plays off of it fearlessly…like the title says. That swing is felt nicely with the trading of bass and drums.
The piece reminds me of the epitaph of Nikos Kazantzakis, “I have no hope. I have no fear. I am free.” Megumi plays with it just that way. She is not reckless but she is determined and aggressive.
A Letter from Stillness is a meditative piece full of reflection and thoughtfulness. It comes from a sense of quiet that is only shaken by the glance of memory. The grip of the piece is inescapable. It is beautiful but it is inexorable. It is like Odysseus hearing the song of the sirens.
The album ends with Epilogue. It is a farewell that wrings the heart because it is not with hope of janeh (See you soon!) but is, rather, an acknowledgment of sayonara or goodbye. It is a frenetic farewell, without joy and final.
I am amazed at the delicate ferocity with which Megumi Yonezawa plays. John Herbert’s bass can be emotional, methodical, and relentless as Eric McPherson is exploratory and experimental, sensitive and sensory. With their support, Megumi springs forward with creativity and expression befitting someone who is determined to be heard and must be heard.
Megumi Yonezawa is a voice from the future.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl