The Miyumi Project
The Miyumi Project includes some topflight Chicago improvisers. Bassist Tatsu Aoki's the founder and director of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival and has produced the Asian American Jazz Orchestra's Far East Suite. Multi-instrumentalists Mwate Bowden and Robbie Hunsinger are equally good players, particularly Bowden on baritone. As with recent Windy City releases from such labels as Delmark, the Miyumi Project's music features compositions dominated by multiple rhythms and stark melodies. The tunes are anchored by two, sometimes three drummers providing both set and constantly changing patterns, while Bowden and Hunsinger weave in and out of the tapestry, and Aoki maintains a central pace from his bass position.
From a musical standpoint, the Miyumi Project mostly accomplishes its goal of balancing Eastern and Western motifs, instrumentation and styles. Aoki successfully switches to the taiko, a Japanese drum, on the songs "Kurodabushi" and "Color Coordination," adding yet another different rhythmic inflection. Paul Kim on the buk (Korean drum), Patti Adachi, who splits time on the taiko with Aoki, and Hide Yoshihashi on shime (another Japanese drum with a higher pitch, as well as the small drum) intertwine contrasting beats, textures and colors. The writing, particularly in the melodic arena, is where things falter. Not a single piece boasts either a memorable central melody or exciting theme. The percussive interplay and attacking, aggressive solos can be entertaining, at times hypnotic, but over the course of an hour, the thematic sameness becomes wearying. The Miyumi Project supplies so much percussive punch you do get overwhelmed; you just don't always get satisfied.