Joh Yamada: Bluestone

Joh Yamada, Swing magazine’s top altoist in both 1998 and 1999, is a player of compelling versatility. In the opening “First Step,” for example, his bluesy burning recalls the boppish fires of Jackie McLean. When the lights are dimmed, as on the evocative “Bluestone,” Yamada wails with heart on sleeve. For the Japanese hornman’s impressive leader debut, he is backed effectively by pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whittaker and drummer Clarence Penn.