Moon Over The World
In the tradition of the American popular songs that have become standards of the jazz repertoire, Moon Over The World draws from Japanese and Chinese popular and folk melodies to deliver a fresh program of acoustic jazz chamber music. Driven by the exceptional grooves of drummer Akira Tana, this multi-cultural session blends the highest level of jazz improvisation with new and interesting Asian-
01 Jewel's Eyes (3:49)
02 Moon Over The World (6:11)
03 Koi-no Vacance (Vacation of Love) (5:23)
04 Sweet Stuff (6:12)
05 Skyline (6:16)
06 No Place Is The End Of The World (7:04)
07 Sofflee (6:28)
08 Condor Man (5:12)
09 Three Views Of A Secret (6:47)
10 Chinese Fingers (5:13)
11 Reflections Of Love (5:45)
Rufus REID, bass
Ted LO, piano
Moon Over The World is the second recording I produced for Japanese release on King/Paddle Wheel Records with a group conceived as The Asian American Jazz Trio.
As noted by Paul Yamasaki in the liner notes for the first recording (Sound Circle, Paddle Wheel KICJ-146), the concept for this group had its genesis at the Asian American Jazz Festival in 1991 that was until recently held each year in San Francisco. The festival's presentations demonstrated the diversity of Asian American Jazz expressions: Jon Jang's politically influenced musical message "Tiananmen," Deems Tsutakawa's more commercially flavored grooves, Mark Izu's impressions of traditional Chinese and Japanese folk musics, or the late Glenn Horiuchi's musical tribute to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
The multitalented keyboardist, arranger, and composer on this recording is Ted Lo. Born in Hong Kong on November 13, 1952, he came to the United States in 1971 to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was there that I met and first performed with him in a group led by the Brazilian trumpeter, Claudio Roditi. After graduating from Berklee he remained in the area and worked and toured with artists such as Al Kooper, Marlena Shaw, Raul de Souza, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, with whom he also recorded. Since moving to New York in 1979 he has performed and recorded with a variety of artists from the contemporary music scene including Herbie Mann, Tania Marian, Ron Carter, Michael Franks, Astrud Gilberto, and the late Noel Pointer. He currently keeps residences in Hong Kong and Eastern Pennsylvania working on a variety of projects.
A mainstay in the jazz world for many years, the bassist on this project is Rufus Reid, the ubiquitous bassist, co-leader of the group TanaReid, and educator (former Director of Jazz Studies at William Paterson College in New Jersey for twenty years). He has been associated over the years with, among others, Nancy Wilson, J.J. Johnson, Dexter Gordon, Jack DeJohnette, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
True to its mission, Moon Over The World draws some of its material from the world of Chinese and Japanese folk/pop melodies, following the tradition of jazz interpretations of American popular music (i.e. George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, etc.) that have come to be regarded as "standards" in the jazz repertoire.
Ted has written and arranged for various artists in Hong Kong, and showed some initial skepticism as to whether the folk/pop material included on this CD, "Condor Man" and "Reflections of Love," and the title track of the project, "Moon Over The World," would adapt itself to an acoustic trio setting. We discovered that these compositions and arrangements, though modified for this piano, bass, and drums instrumentation, began to have a creative life force and energy of their own. "Moon Over The World," which dates back as far as the 1940's, sounds in this rendition the most "pop" of this material but the arrangement has plenty of room for improvisation. The mood that is created lends itself to the panoramic quality of the title. "Reflections of Love," a melody that is pre-World War II, begins very delicately but then develops itself into a combustible, driving melody and improvisation, which in many cases can said to be found in love's many qualities. "Condor Man" is a theme from a popular Kung Fu TV show based on an old Chinese tale. The trio treats Ted's arrangement with a fast samba feel.
Japanese melodies are also represented in this program. Composed by the much-respected contemporary composer of popular music, Hiroshi Miyagawa (born in 1931 in Hokkaido), his "Koi-no Vacance," or in English, "Vacation of Love," and the recently penned "Chinese Fingers" are his contributions to this project. "Chinese Fingers" strongly reminds me of the song stylings of Horace Silver (who is himself represented on the program for this reason). "Koi-no Vacance" was a hit song in 1963 for the popular vocal duet group made up of twin sisters known as The Peanuts. This tune remains a best seller for King Records to this day. The melodies for these Japanese songs as well as for the Chinese songs mentioned above have identifiable "Asian" qualities. It is in Ted's brilliant re-harmonization of the chord changes and the conversational improvisation based on these new chords by the trio that take this material to another level of universal jazz expression.
The other selections in this collection are a combination of originals by the members of this trio and other jazz greats. Ted offers the opener of this disc with a spiraling, effervescent composition entitled "Jewel's Eyes." My contribution is called "Skyline," which Rufus and Ted both remarked on its dark and mysterious qualities. Rufus' contribution is a delicate and melodious, subtly romping tune entitled, "No Place Is The End Of The World." This tune was written with lyrics by Orlando Murden, ex-staff writer for Motown Records who also wrote "For Once In My Life," made famous by Stevie Wonder and Tony Bennett.
The remaining selections are Jaco Pastorius' "Three Views Of A Secret," reminiscent of an optimistic "Rashomon," a hauntingly beautiful, a not so well known Horace Silver ballad, "Sweet Stuff," and finally, a line based on the chord changes to "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise," written by the highly underrated guitarist/composer Gene Bertoncini ( Acoustic Romance , Sons of Sound SSPCD017), called "Sofflee." On this particular track I enjoy the adventurous exchanges between the bass and drums, with Ted unleashing his creative energy in the subsequent group interaction.
Originally released as The Asian American Jazz Trio in Japan and now as my trio recording in the US, Moon Over the World is first and foremost acoustic jazz chamber music at the highest musical level of improvisation, steeped in past and recent traditions but with an emphasis on the present and future. The effort is truly a cooperative one from all of the participants, to whom I give deep thanks. Each musician, as this CD demonstrates, has sacrificed his own personal ego for the sake of the music, which in turn has allowed all of the individual's expressions to flourish.
Please enjoy the music of this continually evolving group.
-- Akira Tana, April 1992 (revised November 2003)
This recording is dedicated to the late multi-reed instrumentalist, Gerald Oshita, and the pianist composer, the late Glenn Horiuchi, both pioneers in the Asian American Jazz movement.
[Four Stars] "Drummer Akira Tana, bassist Rufus Ried and pianist Ted Lo make it all seem so effortless on Moon Over The World. …They unify an explosive gait with poise and magnetism. Lo's lightning-fast delivery conjures up remembrances of Bud Powell during some of the high-impact selections. Tana and Reid perform with burning passion as the trio incorporates snappy Latin beats, complex unison choruses and dainty melodies into various arrangements."
— DownBeat , November 2004
[three stars] "…boasts a mature, focused eloquence. …Moon highlights the jazz drummer in an acoustic trio. It's a highly satisfying setting for Tana's intricate, sensitive, and swinging drumming… Tana is a big listener, and exciting "orchestrator" who employs his formidable chops for phrase building. Not a gratuitous note in the set."
— Modern Drummer , June 2004
"…any listener will be knocked out by the sparkling solos and telepathic ensemble work."
— Body & Soul, May/June 2004
"Consummate pro Akira Tana demonstrates his nimble touch and reliably swinging grooves on Moon Over The World… Tana's signature tasteful brushwork…Tana plays the sensitive colorist… An underrated master, Tana shines on Moon Over The World."
— JazzTimes, May 2004
"…attractive, thoughtful mainstream piano-trio music, longer on shapliness and refinement than on surprise, but benefiting from some unusual choices of repertoire. Lo contributes excellent arrangements of Chinese and Japanese folk tunes and pop songs; there are astute picks of rarely-covered tunes by Horace Silver, Jaco Pastorius, and Gene Bertoncini; and all three musicians chip in with good originals… The results are a listenable and enjoyable album…."
— Cadence, May 2004
[Four and a half stars] "…doesn't restrict itself to the same jazz standards and frequently recorded jazz works… Tana's idea to incorporate Chinese folk songs works very well. "Moon Over the World" has a pop sensibility, but the lovely melody and superb musicianship keep it viable. "Condor Man" was once a theme song to a popular kung fu TV show, yet Lo's imaginative samba setting likewise keeps it from falling into predictability. "Reflections of Love" begins as a ballad before suddenly segueing into a wild post-bop arrangement, with Tana's exciting drum solo as its centerpiece. Since the Paddlewheel edition of this highly recommended CD is somewhat difficult to obtain, most jazz fans will be pleased to learn that Sons of Sound reissued this release in the U.S. in early 2004."
— All Music Guide, February 2004
"While the influence and adaptability of European sources to modern jazz is a given, there seems to be little credit or credibility given to the Asian subcontinent… The result, Moon Over the World, is a fascinating and engaging blend of Oriental themes with contemporary post bop… Tana’s career extends back over twenty years…Even at it most urgent, its most insistent, there is a certain delicacy to his playing… Moon Over the World may only be the second album released by Tana as a leader, but, while it is clearly the work of a collective with remarkable empathy, he exhibits all the characteristics of a good leader: an ability to put together an attractive program with a concept, performed by a trio of musicians who clearly understand where he is trying to take it. Subtle and distinctive, Moon Over the World sheds light on a musical source that is far too rarely mined."
— All About Jazz, February 2004
"Akira Tana… is one of the most inventive drum performers performing today, and accompanied with Ted Lo on piano and Rufus Reid on bass, Moon Over The World is Tana at his finest. This CD collection combines the best of contemporary jazz with world music motifs and improvisional jazz themes. An unusual blend, it works perfectly with this trio… Each song performance is inventive… There is topnotch solo work on each song, and each musician is in top form. To hear Tana and Lo and Reid together is a jazz audience listening treat, and this CD delivers! For an eclectic and exciting listening adventure, Moon Over The World is a delight. Highly recommended."
— Jazz Review , February 2004
"Drummer Akira Tana teams up with pianist Ted Lo and bassist Rufus Reid to deliver eleven electric cuts of jazz gems on Moon Over The World. Together they draw upon Chinese and Japanese pop and folk melodies as inspiration for a set of improvisational jazz… An exciting and interesting album blending the music of both cultures!"
— Boston Post-Gazette, January 2004