She is a major star in her native Japan, equally renowned for her award-winning film work and her genre-blurring musical skills. Now based in New York and married to trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, Monday Michiru has also gained significant recognition among the Stateside hip-hop and acid-jazz crowds, but remains less well known among more mainstream jazz fans. Soulception, its title referring to insights gained from the soul rather than to some sort of Motown mash-up, may be an ideal entry point for a wider audience, its multi-shaded sensibility suggesting an East-meets-West vibe reflective of the vocalist’s Japanese-American heritage. She is the daughter of two esteemed jazz artists: pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and the late Boston-born saxophonist Charlie Mariano.
Following a spoken-word introduction that sets up the album’s spiritual impetus, Michiru dives into the chanting, metronomic “Adventures,” its sharp edges ultimately smoothed by Sipiagin, bassist Boris Kozlov and guitarist Adam Rogers. Her outré leanings are equally evident across the staccato “What Is a Soul,” a sort of trans-universal search for enlightenment. Then, suddenly, Michiru settles into a mellow reading of Milton Nascimento’s “Bridges,” featuring Ed Motta on companion vocals. Her wordless “Native Tongue” starts off as soft as spring rain, progressing to a fully funkified dance of joy. Quietude again invades with the gently reflective “Over and Over.” Fresh flames are ignited beneath a magnificently rendered “Brasilianos” (a wonderful showcase for Sipiagin), then tempered for the dewy “’Til Morning Comes Again” and the delicate, Rogers-propelled denouement “What Defines You.”