Footprints in New York
¦BIOGRAPHY & Liner notes Kaoru Azuma performed jazz vocal in her hometown of Osaka, Japan. But she realized that to get to the heart of the music, to understand the culture in which it was born and to master the nuances of the language, she had to continue her studies in New York City, the capital of jazz. In 2003, Kaoru enrolled in the jazz studies program at the City College of New York (CUNY), where she became immersed in the study of jazz theory, history, arranging, English diction, improvisation and vocal technique. The melting pot of New York City changed her profoundly; according to Kaoru 'it opened my mind and let me know who I am.' She discovered herself and had a story to tell through her music. After receiving her BFA degree from City College, Kaoru began performing in clubs around New York, but the needs of her family have drawn her back to Osaka. The CD, 'Footprints in New York,' is her dedication and farewell to the city that taught her so much about American jazz. 'High Wire' by Chick Corea was originally recorded with vocalist Chaka Khan on Chick's Echoes of an Era, but Kaoru's arrangement gives it a new twist. Kaoru learned Bird's classic 'Confirmation' from her teacher, the legendary jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan. Her arrangement brings a hint of Horace Silver's 'Juicy Lucy' into the mix. The medley of 'Hana' and 'A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing' combines a Japanese song by Okinawan Shokichi Kina with Billy Strayhorn's classic. Both songs talk about flowers and the traditional Japanese scale blends beautifully with Strayhorn's exotic harmonies. The second Wayne Shorter classic on the CD, 'Yes or No,' has also been transformed by Kaoru's recasting of the rhythmic underpinnings of the tune. 'Jungle City New York' is Kaoru's version of Monk's 'Bemsha Swing.' Her Japanese lyrics to Monk's quirky melody gives us her impression of life in New York. For us non-Japanese speakers, the translation follows below. 'Footprints' has been recorded many times, but Kaoru gives it new life by blending voices with trombone, the outgrowth of a project for an arranging class she took with pianist Mike Holober. 'Giant Steps' has been intimidating instrumentalists for years, let alone vocalists. Kaoru was inspired to record it because 'the chord changes gave me the idea for the lyrics, as well as the realization that even small and slow changes can bring about the next step. Everything is connected. I also wanted to make this song cute, not just an improvisational exercise.' 'Without a Trace' was recorded by my quintet, but after I wrote a lyric to the song, I wondered if the wide intervals and obtuse harmonies would make a vocal version impractical. But I was so impressed with Kaoru's fantastic ear and her technical ability that I decided to give it to her exclusively. Kaoru not only mastered the angular melody, but imbues it's with great depth of emotion in this premiere vocal performance. Benny Golson's classic 'Along Came Betty,' is recast as 'Along Came Memory' in Kaoru's lyric. She states 'the rain and cold night in early autumn made me melancholy, which inspired the lyrics while I was practicing the song.' Bill Evans's 'Turn Out the Stars' is another melody with wide intervals which could be intimidating to vocalists. Kaoru turns in a beautiful, heart-wrenching performance on this recording. Liner notes: Scott Reeves, Professor of Music, City College of New York ¦Musicians: Kaoru Azuma - Vocals Mike Holober - Piano Scott Reeves - Alto Flugelhorn & Trombone on Footprints Jesse Forest - Guitar Robinson Morse - Bass Paolo Orlandi - Drums ¦Recorded in New York City on April 2, 2008 Produced and arranged except Without a trace arranged by Scott Reeves: Kaoru Azuma.