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(50:47, ‘Bonobo's Ark’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Statement Heels 3:53 2. The Shape du Jour 3:02 3. Walk on the Middle of the Road 3:09 4. Cosmos Massive No-901 2:16 5. Baby Doll 3:46 6. The Milky Way 2:59 7. Fortitude 4:08 8. Farouche 5:21 9. Sense of Homogeneity 4:41 10. Archaeopteryx 6:17 11. Mikuratana 7:44 12. The Ebb Tide 3:31 SOLO PILOT: Yumi Hara Cawkwell – piano, keyboards; vocals With: Tatsuya Yoshida – drums; vocals
Prolusion. Japanese vocalist, instrumentalist and composer Yumi Hara CAWKWELL has been active since the mid 90's, mostly as a performing artist. Her first full length album appeared in 2008, and since then she has appeared on a number of collaborative productions. "Statement Heels" from 2011 is her first standalone solo output, and was released through the Bonobo's Ark label.
Analysis. When Cawkwell made her debut as a solo artist, she has done so in an intriguing manner. The album consists of material she has written over a 12-year long period, the majority of the pieces originally written for other performers. For her solo debut these has been rerecorded, with a few additional bits and pieces thrown in for good measure. In terms of style we're dealing with material that tends to hover outside of what one normally would describe as progressive rock. Cawkwell's piano is the central feature, with keyboards of various kinds given an occasional leading role. References and associations go towards classical music and jazz more than anything, with a certain free form spirit as a core element, the jazz association strengthened for the compositions featuring drummer Yoshida, whose style at least to my ears appears to be rather jazz-oriented. There's fair bit of different ground covered on this album, the most easygoing material arguably of an ambient or new age orientation, and the most challenging should appeal strongly to fans of free form, improvisational jazz. And while I don't see a core audience that will love and cherish all aspects explored, I suspect a broad range of people with rather different musical tastes each will find some material to be highly intriguing. Those who love the sound of the church organ and sacral music will find a piece like Fortitude to be an interesting excursion, those fond of piano-dominated jazz will most likely find opening piece Statement Heels to be a worthwhile experience. Final piece The Ebb Tide is also a number that should fit such a crowd well. Personally I found the more new age oriented The Milky Way to be a tantalizing experience, cleverly utilizing light toned piano notes and resonances to create a cold, barren cosmic atmosphere. The deeper piano notes backing a wandering lighter toned register run with energetic jazz-tinged rhythms beneath of Cosmos Massive, another intriguing excursion, and for the clear album highlight to my personal taste I'd select Mikuratana, basically a free form oriented piano and drums jazz piece with experimental vocals utilizing a slowly fluctuating, majestic cosmic keyboards motif as the core foundation, an arrangement that works quite excellently to my ears. Those who prefer a more stripped down version of that kind of material should check out Archaeopteryx instead, a creation based around many of the same principles but without keyboard textures adding the cosmic vibes. Cawkwell is an accomplished composer and performer, qualities that are easily heard and appreciated when exploring this disc, whether you actually like the end result or not. But personally I found the contributions by Tatsuya Yoshida to be just as important, he's a highly skilled and fairly drummer, as far as I can tell, which for me elevated the total experience of this production.
Conclusion. Twelve compositions written over a twelve year period is what Yumi Hara Cawkwell provides on her first solo album, sporting material ranging from easygoing new age oriented material to challenging improvisational pieces. An album most likely to find its main audience among jazz aficionados I suspect, in particular amongst those with a strong affection for the piano as an instrument and with a liberal and expansive musical taste.
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