Kuniyuki Takahashi: All These Things
Mule Musiq

All These Things, a hefty seventy-eight minute collection by Japanese artist Kuniyuki Takahashi, is said to showcase his mastery of deep house but labeling it as such would be terribly misleading. The material is far closer to an exotic jazz style strongly rooted in Brazilian and African musical forms. The overture “My Dear Friends,” for example, aligns Takahashi's sound closer to jazz when a Pastorius-like bass guitar solos over Rhodes-filled atmospheres, while Omar Guaindefall's vocals and djembe playing lend “Dear African Sky” an irrepressible “global” feel. “The Guitar Song” could pass for a Pat Metheny homage, so true to the guitarist's spirit is the pealing playing and the rich background of synthesizers and percussion against which the instrument's heard. The repeating guitar motif with which “The Session” begins recalls Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint while the exuberant piano playing is stylistically reminiscent of Metheny's long-standing keyboardist Lyle Mays. It's hardly insignificant that the first literal excursion into house music comes five songs in with the appearance of “One Round,” and even then the percussion-heavy arrangement feels like a jazz-house fusion above all else. Josée Hurlock's soulful singing, on the other hand, helps deepen the warm house feel of “You Get Me” and the late-night title track, while “Think of You” works a fiery groove that's more buoyant house than jazz. Throughout the set, Kuniyuki's arrangements are full and lush, with acoustic instrumentation (strings, harp, acoustic bass, piano, percussion) deepening considerably their rich character. As noted, it's a long album—both the title track and “Dear African Sky” unspool for eleven minute durations—so some judicious editing might have been considered. But listeners with an appetite for a Methenyesque jazz-house hybrid would probably find All These Things to be of interest.

April 2008