Akira Kosemura: Grassland+

Originally issued in early 2010, Akira Kosemura's Grassland re-emerges in a remastered form supplemented with a plus sign and four extra songs. Not surprisingly, the material still sounds as good as it did the first time around and once again argues convincingly on behalf of Kosemura's gifts as an instrumentalist, melodist, arranger, and songwriter. While there's nothing that explicitly suggests his primary goal was to demonstrate his versatility, the sixty-four-minute collection certainly does so in presenting such a diverse array of vocal and instrumental song styles, among them jazz and post-rock.

Breathy vocal contributions by The Misfortunes of Gerald to “Petrarca” lend its bubbly techno an ethereal air, an effect amplified wondrously when Aspidistrafly's April Lee adds vocals to the lullaby-like allure of “Little Dipper.” Four years removed from its first appearance, “Light” still sounds unmistakably reminiscent of Minnie Ripperton's “Lovin' You” (though Itoko Toma's voice is obviously different from Ripperton's), especially when its melodies so directly evoke the earlier song. With warm electric piano melodies and guitar-like textures powered by a post-rock drum groove, the title track swings breezily, and there's, of course, no shortage of examples of Kosemura's exquisite piano playing, among them the lilting ballad “Marriage” and wistful ruminations “Ballet” and “Amour.” On a collection that overflows with positivity, “Over the Horizon,” which features acoustic guitar playing by Haruka Nakamura, might be the most joyous piece of all.

The new additions blend seamlessly with the previously issued ones: the resplendent wonderlands “Breath of Spring” and “Daybreak” shimmer as radiantly as one would expect from pieces so titled and “Pianomatic” offers an audacious, multi-tracked piano exercise that sounds equally indebted to Monk and Tristano. Though there are a number of recordings in Kosemura's discography from which to choose, Grassland+ offers a veritable treasure trove that splendidly showcases the full range of his musical artistry.

August-September 2014