Yonezawa/Kamaguchi/Kobayashi: Boundary


After scrimshawing a name for herself in the ivory of jazz as sidewoman for saxophonist Greg Osby and following her 2016 leader debut A Result of the Colors (see my review for All About Jazz here), pianist Megumi Yonezawa releases her deepest personal statement to date. Boundary triangulates her tactful artistry with bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Ken Kobayashi in a set of nine freely improvised tunes, plus a lone standard for good measure. If said standard—Sammy Fain/Irving Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You”—feels like a message that has traveled light-years to get here and shows the trio at its most resonant, then the spontaneous wonders cushioning it feel like messages yet to be revealed and show the trio at its most inward. As in the droplets of piano that open the title track, each turn of phrase makes known a realm that only the ears can grasp.

While other titles offer descriptors of what one encounters here, their truth is limited. “Alchemy,” for example, does indeed come across as a sonic conversion of base elements, even as one is constantly reminded of something far more precious than gold: namely, the coherence of flesh, bone and dedication that only musicians who listen to each other this closely can achieve. “Tremor,” too, despite an underlying quiver of spontaneity, names the album’s steadiest departure. Then there’s “Wavelength,” a duet between Kamaguchi and Kobayashi implying something greater than synergy: dialogue.

Even without such trail markers, one can hear the cartographic sincerity of “Reef” and tactile intensity of “Nostalgio” as if they were one and the same. The most absorbing promises are fulfilled in “Veil” and “Onement.” Where the former is as beautiful as it is intrepid, the latter swirls with life-giving immediacy. Mirroring the patient unfolding of “Meryon,” they seek catharsis on the path to getting there, so that by the end a new beginning has already opened its eyes for want of another day.

(This review originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of The New York City Jazz Record, a full PDF of which is available here.)

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