TAEKO | Voice

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“a gentle breeze with hurricane potential” – the native of Japan has assimilated the“all-American” art form with astonishing individuality.
Genre: Jazz: Contemporary Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Cantaloupe Island (get Up)
5:40 album only
2. I Mean You (you Know Who)
3:26 album only
3. Soochow Serenade
3:47 album only
4. Inner City Blues
5:25 album only
5. On A Clear Day
2:37 album only
6. Spring Nocturne
2:00 album only
7. Infant Eyes
6:10 album only
8. Biwako
4:06 album only
9. Sugar
5:15 album only
10. I Didn’t Know About You
4:36 album only
11. Stand!
3:19 album only
12. Biwako (english Version)
3:41 album only


Album Notes
TAEKO – Voice

Finding one’s own voice in jazz has long been a prerequisite for making a mark in this most creative music, which demands originality over imitation and values imagination over replication. This daunting task -- always an intimidating undertaking for all but the most gifted -- has become even more difficult today, as the art form has continued to grow and broaden it landscape. The road to distinction is arguably even more arduous for vocalists, as the number of performers who have successfully sang their way into the pantheon of jazz greats pales in comparison to the large quantity of instrumentalists who have played their way to the top. For a singer born in a far-off country and raised speaking a foreign language the mission seems nearly impossible, one to be undertaken by only the most dedicated of artists.

TAEKO is such an artist. A singer of uncommon originality with a voice all her own - one that has been aptly described as “a gentle breeze with hurricane potential” – the native of Japan has assimilated this “all-American” art form with astonishing individuality. Bearing touches of her many influences, from Ella Fitzgerald to Anita Baker, while remaining distinctly herself, TAEKO takes each song she sings and makes it her own, not just musically but spiritually. Voice, her second effort as a leader, like her impressive debut disc One Love, is full of surprises. Again it features her collaborative work with long time colleague, drummer Doug Richardson, who is responsible for the arrangements of several of the date’s excellent pieces.

Opening with Herbie Hancock’s popular “Cantaloupe Island” TAEKO quickly identifies herself as a soulful singer with a taste for the funkier side of jazz. She sings the hip lyric - written by her vocal coach Juanita Fleming, who she also credits for her ongoing growth as a vocalist - with a sassy self-confidence that betrays the soul of her new New York City roots. Greg Lewis’ organ, Kevin McNeal’s guitar and Gaku Takanashi’s electric bass give the track the boost that helps the singer, as the words say, “get up.” TAEKO reveals her bebop chops on Richardson’s arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You,” burning up the Jon Hendricks words with skills honed under the tutelage of Barry Harris and Hendricks’ protégé Marion Cowings. The singer notes that “Soochow Serenade” was a hit in 1940’s Japan and relates that the song tells the story of a love affair in the picturesque Chinese town of its title. “Its beautiful lyric stuck with me for a while,” she says, “and I eventually wrote this arrangement (featuring pianist Lou Rainone) for it.”

“Inner City Blues” has long been a favorite of jazz instrumentalists, but surprisingly few vocalists have chosen to sing the song’s momentous words. TAEKO’s emotional take on Marvin Gaye’s soul classic is both poignant and telling, while her workout on “On A Clear Day” shows that she can swing with the best of them, too. “Spring Nocturne” is a beautiful original with words and music by the singer that reflect her Japanese heritage. TAEKO confesses, “I’m a big fan of Mr. Doug Carn.” She recorded Carn’s lyric to Bobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem” on her previous disc; here she delivers an emotional reading of his words accompanying Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes.”

“Biwako” is Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, which is located in TAEKO’s birthplace of Shiga, just outside of Kyoto. The Japanese folk song was a hit in Japan in the seventies as a slow waltz. TAEKO’s arrangement brightens it up, with Richardson’s melodica adding just the right touch of melancholy. “This is my way of saying thank you to the people of my hometown,” she says. “Sugar” was hugely popular with New York audiences in the seventies. TAEKO hearkens to those soulful days with her lively performance of Ted Daryll’s lyric to the Stanley Turrentine tour de force, while her exquisite reading of Duke Ellington’s “I Didn’t Know About You,” intoned with ducal class, with only McNeal’s spare accompaniment, brings back memories of earlier simpler times.

Richardson’s fresh arrangement of Sly Stone’s “Stand” breathes new life into the Family Stone anthem and TAEKO delivers a lively rendition that includes a funky scat interlude. She says, “I feel I must continue to spread this powerful message.” Greg Lewis’s organ is heard to particularly good effect on this one. The date ends with a reprise of the beautiful “Biwako,” this time with the lyric sung in its English translation. TAEKO’s emotional reading of the song in the language of her adopted country proves that she is truly a citizen of the world and the flawless diction and discerning depth with which she delivers it displays a mature talent to be reckoned with. TAEKO has a voice that everyone should hear!

Russ Musto
AllAboutJazz-New York



to write a review

Chuck Vecoli

TAEKO demonstrates the heart and soul of a true jazz singer
TAEKO's latest CD, Voice, is a tasteful collection of songs from some very different sources that she treats with the same skillful exectution. Taeko Fukao, a native of Japan, has acquired the command of her instrument, her voice, and applied it to the genre of jazz in a way that is both technically significant and entertaining. Her handling of the intricacies of the jazz genre has a clear sense of remarkable talent honed by a recognizable work ethic.

Under the coaching of Juanita Fleming, Taeko has evolved in her jazz voice and has taken on some interesting projects on Voice, including a lyric written by Fleming for Herbie Hancock's familiar tune, "Canteloupe Island." Taeko has a soulful, wistful voice with an ever so faint hint of her Asian ancestry, that sneaks into the tunes in the most appropriate way, especially during her expressive phrasing. Taeko puts together a set list that includes the works of Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues," Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," and Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar." Then mixes it up a bit with titles such as "Spring Nocturne," an original by the singer, and "Biwako," a traditional Japanese folk song that was a hit in Japan in the 1940's.

Taeko's approach to each of these songs is different, but consistent in each of them is the attention to execution, the precision and skilled management of her instrument is coupled with a playful and emotional coloring that conveys a shear joy with the work. Taeko's voice is a pleasure to listen to. Even when in its deepest range it is still lite and gentle, while remaining full. Her scat capability is remarkable in and of itself and presents itself in a lively rendition of Sly Stone's "Stand!"

Overall, Taeko is brilliant in both her native language and her acquired language. She demonstrates the skills built on a native talent that has been honed by a significant effort to convey the art of jazz vocals with all the musical elements in place and the heart and soul of a true jazz singer.

I found the entire CD to be a delightful departure from the run of the mill standards singers I have been hearing lately. A refreshing new twist on some old favorites and an introduction into some new music from a Japanese influence, Taeko bridges both worlds exceptionally well. If you haven't heard of TAEKO, or listened to her Voice, then you must check it out!

Reviewed by: Chuck Vecoli