Miya Masaoka Trio: Monk’s Japanese Folk Song

There is little precedent in jazz expression for the ancient Japanese stringed koto, a large stationary instrument that can be plucked like a harp or finger-picked like an acoustic guitar and is perhaps the instrument most closely identified with Japanese folk music. Which is all the more reason that hearing it in the context of Thelonious Monk further documents the enormous influence of that particular 20th century genius. Monk and variations therein are the central charm of this recording.

Masaoka’s trio mates were well-chosen for the task, including Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums and percussion. Miya opens with an invocation Japanese folk song, and she includes two of her pieces; otherwise the theme is solidly Monk, though not expressed in any kind of traditional manner. The variations blend traditional Japanese folk music with Monk, a la a Shinto “Midnight.” Workman and Cyrille’s prowess is well-documented, and rest assured Ms. Masaoka is a formidable virtuoso who is well within her element performing this material.