Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fusion CD of the Month - "Jimbo de CTI"

Fusion CD of the Month
Akira Jimbo: "Jimbo de CTI" (Electric Bird) 2015
Release Date: January 07, 2015 

***** (musical performance)
**** (sound quality)

Produced, Arranged & Programmed by Akira Jimbo
Featuring: Akira Jimbo (drums & electronic percussion), Abraham Laboriel (bass & vocals) & Otmaro Ruiz (keyboards, pianos & vocals)

Recorded by Talley Sherwood @ Tritone Studio (Glendale, CA)
Mixed by Tom McCauley @ B2 Studios (Valley Village, CA) for Mixworks
Mastered by Gene “The Machine” Grimaldi @ Oasis Mastering (Burbank, CA)
Recording Coordinated by Keisuke Nakai for Songbirds Inc.
Photos: Hiroshi Tanimoto & Keisuke Nakai
Design: Kiyomi Hashimoto

Japan's top jazz drummer, and a rare case of jazzman with the popularity of a pop star in Japan (like Sadao Watanabe), Akira Jimbo -- who became famous as a member of the Casiopea supergroup -- delivers a joyful tribute to Creed Taylor's CTI Records, snobbed by jazz purists in the 70s but now recognized as one of the most important jazz labels ever.

"Most of the CTI guys got a bunch of shit at the time from jazz purists--I don't like purists in any music, because conservatism bleeds creativity dry because they listened to and created their own form of jazz that would be not only accessible to mainstream listeners, but as sophisticated as anything that was happening at the time--or since," the renowned jazz historian Thom Jurek states. "For me, it was the greatest jazz label. Yes, that is heresy because IO didn't say Blue Note or Prestige or Verve, but no other label was able to paint as many different canvasses and bring jazz to people who had previously been intimidated by it.  If you listen to Til Bronner's 'Til,' Gerardo Frisina's 'Movement,' Nicola Conte's 'Love & Revolution,' the influence of CTI is everywhere to be heard."

We can add the brand-new "Jimbo de CTI" to this list. It's a killer album focused on Jimbo's favorite albums from the CTI catalog of the 70s. Most of the tunes come from Eumir Deodato's "Prelude" (the monster hit "2001 - Also Sprach Zarathustra" adapted from Richard Strauss' symphonic poem, the latin-tinged tribute to Carly Simon and Carole King titled "Carly & Carole," and "Spirit Of Summer," originally written as a ballad) and "Deodato 2" (two epic themes composed by the Brazilian genius, "Super Strut" and "Skyscrapers.")

Akira Jimbo also selected tracks from other legendary albums: Airto Moreira's "Fingers" (the dancefloor anthem "Tombo In 7/4"), Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Stone Flower" (its title track that also fascinated Carlos Santana, who covered it twice), Freddie Hubbard's main theme from "Red Clay" (that became an instant contemporary jazz classic), and one lovely tune composed by Jane Hall for his husband Jim Hall, "The Answer Is Yes," included on Jim's best-selling album ever, "Concierto."

Curiously, though, instead of using a large band with strings and horns, like was typical of CTI in the Seventies, Jimbo-san opted to recreate these tunes in fast & furious arrangements performed "only" by a frenetic trio, completed by LA-based Venezuelan keyboard wiz Otmaro Ruiz and the Mexican-born bass legend Abe Laboriel, who also lives in California.

Even a sumptuous ballad like "Spirit Of Summer" receives a funkyfied groove, and it works pretty well. The epic "Skyscrapers," one of the album highlights, gets an irresistible dance mood, with Jimbo's massive breakbeats, Laboriel's astounding solo and Ruiz shining on the Rhodes as well as in the reproduction of the horn riffs from Deodato's arrangement (even the French Horn parts!!!) The closing theme, "The Answer Is Yes," is the only track with a kind of straight-ahead feeling, on which Jimbo starts using brushes. In all other tracks, the power trio plays with an impressive level of energy, intensity and excitement, with Otmaro's overdubs on his keyboard arsenal giving us the impression of a larger ensemble. The cover pic is a copy of the famous portrait done by the renowned NY-based Irish photographer Alen McWeeney for "Deodato 2."
神保 彰 Akira Jimbo (Drums)
エイブラハム・ラボリエル Abraham Laboriel (Bass・Vocal)
オトマロ・ルイーズ Otmaro Ruiz (Keyboards・Piano・Vocal)

デオダートの作品を一通り揃えた後、CTIのロゴを目印に様々なアーティストのアルバムを順番に聴いて行く中でスティーヴ・ガッドのドラムプレイに出会い、稲妻に打たれたような衝撃を受けてドラムを叩き始めました。60年代風に表現するとすれば「がびーん! がちょーん!」70年代風だと「な、なんじゃこりゃー!」、、、

1950年代よりジャズアルバムの制作に携わっていたクリード・テイラー(敬称略)は、60年代後半に大手A&M内に Creed Taylor Issue を立ち上げ、オクターヴ奏法を発案したギタリスト、ウェス・モンゴメリーとの一連のアルバムや、ボサノヴァをいちはやく紹介する作品でジャズカテゴリーとしては異例の商業的成功をおさめます。1970年に独立し Creed Taylor Incorporated を設立。天才エンジニア、ルディ・ヴァン・ゲルダーとタッグを組んで、クオリティーの高い一連の作品群を生み出しました。ヘッドアレンジ(簡単なメロディー譜を元に、現場で口答でアレンジする)が主流のジャズの世界にコンセプチュアルなアルバム制作の手法が持ち込まれ、時にはストリングスやホーンを配した大掛かりなサウンドメイクが施されました。巧みな選曲、絶妙なミュージシャンのセレクト、大衆性と芸術性の見事な融合、統一感のあるジャケットデザイン、様々な要素が相まって、独自のレーベルイメージが構築されました。硬派のジャズファンからは軟弱とのレッテルを貼られ、批判される事も多かったようですが、主流派が停滞し、前衛も行き詰まり、袋小路に迷い込んだ感のあった当時のジャズマーケットに新しい風を吹き込んだ功績は万人の認めるところでした。そして、そのクリードの開いた扉が、その後のクロスオーヴァー・ムーヴメント、80年代以降のフュージョンへと繋がって行くのです。


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