Chie Imaizumi’s latest CD, A Time of New Beginnings, is one of the most original jazz recordings I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in quite some time. This native of Japan is a very in-demand copyist, conductor, composer and arranger for good reason – her music is honest and pure-hearted, blending culture, big band writing and American jazz traditions for an experience that can’t be beat (no pun intended).
Although the album is spectacular overall, there are three standout tracks that are worthy of extra attention. The first is the collection’s title piece, “A Time of New Beginnings.” In it, your heart soars with the exquisite horn sections as your body revels in the primal feel of the percussion elements. “Run For Your Life” is another favorite which consumes every fiber of your being. It ends much too quickly though, and you’re left wishing there was a way to make time stop so the melody never has to end. However, the showstopper is “Sharing the Freedom,” Imaizumi’s lyrical interpretation of U.S./Japan relations since the end of World War II. Every note oozes with sophistication and a sultry urban quality that resonates with joy.
Imaizumi’s dynamic tracks are beautifully crafted in their own right, but her vision is taken to new heights, thanks to the musicians accompanying her, all star players from the jazz world. These include trumpeters Randy Brecker and Terrell Stafford; bassist John Clayton; drummer Jeff Hamilton; and saxophonists Steve Wilson and Gary Smulyan. The best way to describe their performances would be to compare the experience to the act of peeling an onion. There are so many levels of complexity to their technique, just as there are layers in the onion. It’s especially beautiful when their vulnerability is revealed, hidden close to the core. Particularly in numbers like “Many Happy Days Ahead,” the listener gets the sense that the musicians are tenderly playing their instruments, allowing only a whisper of a note to escape with the slightest touch.
And that’s exactly what Imaizumi offers us in A Time of New Beginnings – a reprieve from the daily grind with which we struggle to keep up. Her creations, familiar yet groundbreaking, have the ability to fill you with ease. There’s a sense of nostalgia that winds itself through the entire album, like you’re being called home, but not in such a way that it’s dismissed as boring and old-fashioned. Imaizumi successfully bridges the gap between past and present with her lively work. How she plans to push the envelope in the future remains an exciting prospect.
I highly recommend A Time of New Beginnings to jazz and non-jazz fans alike. Chie Imaizumi deserves to be more widely known, and this release surely does her tremendous talent justice.
For more information, please visit Chie Imaizumi’s website.