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Christian Jacob: Live in Japan

The trio here, with bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker, is probably best known as Tierney Sutton’s back-up band. But they have also been a stand-alone ensemble for 12 years and sound like it. They interweave their three voices with a confidence and clarity that only come with time.

This album was recorded at the TUC jazz club in Tokyo. Christian Jacob makes the inspired choice to include four melodies that “every Japanese person would recognize.” They are depictions of the four seasons that have been taught in Japanese elementary schools for generations. “Hana” is a little like “Up Up And Away” and is airy and bright with the affirmation of spring. Jacob’s trio makes “Akatonbo” sound like a classic jazz ballad about autumn.

Jacob is an accomplished pianist, but his single greatest strength may be his capacity for creating fresh, ambitious, architecturally meticulous trio arrangements. That skill accounts for his seamless transformation of old Japanese children’s songs into jazz. It also explains why his versions of done-to-death standards like “Too Close for Comfort” and “All or Nothing At All” and “It Never Entered My Mind” all sound like their composers wrote them yesterday and gave them to Jacob to rework them.

Originally Published