Miho Hazama: Journey to Journey

Journey to Journey is big and busy music, layers of sound that alternately complement, tag-team and overlap. New York-based, Japanese-born Miho Hazama employs more than a dozen musicians on this recording and she keeps them active. The composer and arranger has a taste for contrasting swaths: rushes of string swells and blasts of woodwinds and brass, cool vibraphone (guest Stefon Harris) and punctuating piano statements, hot flashes of drum. There’s an underlying, constant intensity even during the quieter sections; something is always lurking and ready to pounce, then skitter away again.

But although Hazama favors drama, she also values swing, suavity and especially dynamics; for all of its movement, Journey to Journey never gets lost within itself. In eight originals of the Maria Schneider school and one Lady Gaga cover (“Paparazzi,” virtually Nelson Riddle-ized), Hazama and her classy large ensemble keep the listener guessing-and enchanted.