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Jazz at a Glance
Volume 154

Featured Artist: Miki Kono

CD Title: Are you married...

Year: 2001

Record Label: Miki Records/Satellites Records

Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic

Musicians: Miki Kono (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Carl Allen (drums), Hiromi Masuda (alto sax)

Review: Miki Kono begins to charm you before you've even begun to listen to this CD. The cover photo of her seated at her piano and smiling back at the camera warmly can't help but catch your eye, and the artist's liner notes reveal a mildly self-deprecating humor that is very engaging. When you put the CD in the player, it just gets better.

The CD consists mainly of original compositions, mostly ballads and mostly very pretty. The music is captivating from the very first track, a trio rendition of the title song featuring some very tasty Monk-like phrasing from bandleader/composer Miki Kono and some fine playing by the venerable bassist Rufus Reid. The song reappears later in a slightly faster quartet version that finds Kono exchanging its phrases with saxophonist Hiromi Masuda.

Kono chose an interesting trio of standards to cover, from J.J. Johnson's "Lament, to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" to Bach's "Air on the G-string." Though, in theory, this represents a spectrum from pure jazz to pure classical, the trio of Kono, Reid and drummer Carl Allen reveal the jazz implications of all three compositions. On "Air on the G-String," Kono's playing finds the beauty of Bach's melody in her statement of the theme before the group engages on a really swinging improvisation. The Gershwin piece is very cleverly arranged, Kono introducing it traditionally with her impeccable solo playing, before taking it through a scherzo segment and closing it at a samba rhythm.

This album is a winner, melodically rich and thoroughly engaging. That Kono is classically trained is evidenced not only by her choice of songs, but also by the elegance and precision of her playing. That she is well versed in jazz as well is everywhere apparent on this recording.

Record Label Website: http://www.satellitesrecords.com

Reviewed by: Edward Kane