His song selection and track arrangement tells a story and Toshi's musicianship and from all the contributors makes it a tale worth hearing.
1 - When You Passed By (composed by Toshi Onizuka) Dave Captein on bass, Al Martin on percussion, Toshi on guitars. The song opens with a slick slide guitar. There is nice interplay between the Spanish guitar and the slide like the back and forth between the watcher and the watched in a pass-by
encounter. The slide gives a playful feeling of some guy’s tongue hanging out as he watches the object of his attention go by.
2 - El Chipiron De Triana (composed by Toshi and Matias Trejo - lyrics) Trejo provides the Rap Andaluz in a lusty, gravelly voice. Al Criado’s bass is a cool underpinning of the piece. Toshi’s guitar is added percussion to the throbbing pulse of the work. This is fun and playful stuff!
3 – Let Me Think (composed by Toshi) Damian Erskine, bass and Al Martin, congas. There is a beautiful, daydreaming feeling. There are some sweet chord changes here and the movement within the song is inspiring and uplifting. Erskine and Martin provide understated bass and rhythm which enhances the piece splendidly.
4 – Espresso (composed by Toshi) Recorded at Toshi’s house with Reinhardt Melz (drums) and Victor Little (bass). The sounds of the coffee beans being scooped and ground followed by the pouring of the coffee and the spoon rattling in the cup set the rhythm for the opening of the song. This is the first appearance of Reinhardt on the album who sets a cool groove punctuated by Little’s punchy bass line. Toshi also trades percussive licks with Reinhardt during Little’s swift bass solo. Toshi pulls the piece back into a percussive melody like few can.
5 – Wave (composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim) Toshi solos on this one. There is a subtle eight note nod to The Champs’ Tequila in the middle of this Jobim classic; the man who practically invented bossa nova. The sound of flowing water provides the backdrop. The song fades out to Smoke on the Water. From Jobim to the Champs to Deep Purple! What a ride.
6 – Pipeline (composed by Bob Spickard and Brian Carmen) Ryan Stabach (drums) and Toshi (guitar and bass). Pipeline
become a bit of a surf rock classic. The tune has been covered by Lawrence Welk, The Ventures, Agent Orange, Dick Dale, Anthrax, Bad Manners, and Johnny Thunders. Toshi roars through the song with the greater speed than even Dick Dale but stills colors the piece in his own unique sound. It is the most fun track on the CD. It may not be my favorite track, but the most fun. In case you don't remember the song, below is the link for The Chantay's original version. Try not to get distracted by the surfing videos.
8 – Gentle Rain (composed by Luiz Banfa) Toshi plays it all: guitar, bass, shaker, cajon and frying pan. Banfa’s classic has found fresh breath under Toshi’s playing. The original had honestly become a bit dated and sounded like a 60’s movie soundtrack. Oh, wait…it was a 60’s movie soundtrack! Toshi brings it right to the present and gives it his own heart and touch.
9 – Song for Fighter (composed by Toshi) solo guitar. Shortly after the March 11, 2011 disaster in Northern Japan. His dedication is to “everyone who follow a thorny path.” This is my favorite track of the album. It is not a cheer or an encouragement but a consolation. There are moments of utter heartbreak followed by moments of hope. The song fades on a sad but optimistic note.
10 – Bitter Smile (composed by Toshi, Lyrics by Tracey Harris) Tracey Harris is the vocalist with Farnell Newton on Flugelhorn. Dave Captein on bass, Al Martin on percussion, and Toshi on guitars. Tracey’s vocals have a Basia quality. As always, Farnell
Newton provides an excellent horn insertion. Toshi’s guitar is as quick and fleeting as a bitter smile. The vocal harmonies are rich against Toshi’s aggressive guitar. This is a surprisingly addictive song.
11 – Tu Lo Sbias (composed by Toshi) Jon Hughes on bass with Israel Annoh on congas and bongos. Israel Annoh is the great drummer from Ghana and Jon Hughes provides an even and melodic bass. Jon is a subtle player and a gentleman. Annoh and
Hughes allow a lot of room for Toshi to explore beautifully. Such rich melody and warmth.
12 – When You Passed By / Sunset Beach (composed by Toshi). This reprise is with acoustic guitar instead of the slide. The difference between the opening version and this closing version is the difference between attraction and attainment. It is no
longer the wild speculation but satisfying realization with all the moments that have gone between. It is almost a remembrance of that first sight, looking back to the first attraction after years of life together. The recorded wave sounds of Sunset Beach provide a welcoming backdrop to the emotions of the sweet melody.
Toshi Onizuka cites his influences as Al DiMeola, Paco de Lucia and Django Rhinehart but he is not limited by mere impersonation. Toshi follows his own sound and creates that sound with every melody and phrase that issues from his guitar.
This is a fulfilling album.
Toshi's CD can be purchased at CDBaby here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/toshionizuka2 or at any of his live performances.