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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Arc ARC 2369



1. I Hear a Rhapsody
2. Heaven
3. I'm Old Fashioned
4. Mary Lou Williams Medley
5. Evidence
6. All of You
1. Phantom Carousel
2. Sojourn 1 and Uganda
3. Moroccan Daze
4. Mingus Mood
5. At Home
6. I'm Confessin'

Sumi Tonooka - Piano


Suni Tonooka recorded this solo concert at the Howland Cultural Centre in Beacon, NY, and produced a pair of CDs - the first concentrating on jazz standards and the latter featuring her own compositions. The first CD displays a certain mischievousness - similar to Jessica Williams but not quite matching Jessica's amazing technique. Sumi plays about with tunes, shifting from one tempo to another. And she is like Erroll Garner in that she often starts tunes with lengthy introductions which give few clues as to what tune she will be playing. Melodies gradually emerge, surrounded by cascades of decorative notes.

I'm Old Fashioned on the first CD is a good example of Sumi's playful approach to standards, with an introduction from which the tune eventually emerges plus some scintillating improvisation. Sumi studied with Mary Lou Williams, so the Mary Lou Williams Medley is a kind of tribute to her teacher, although it tends to meander, with lots of trills but few clear melodies. This 13-minute piece warms up with a boogie-woogie section in the middle, although the rhythm tends to be insecure.

The second CD is devoted mainly to Sumi's own compositions. Several tracks have the feeling of one of Keith Jarrett's solo piano recitals. For example, Mingus Mood wanders in a meditative style similar to Jarrett, while At Home is like early Jarrett: nostalgic and melodic. Phantom Carousel sounds like a Debussy piece (compare La Cath‚drale Engloutie): mysterious and unsettling. Sojourn 1 and Uganda is similarly Debussyesque, although the ostinato in the middle becomes tiresomely repetitive.

Moroccan Daze has a dislocated rhythm which may get on your nerves as it got on mine. The CD ends with its only jazz standard: I'm Confessin', which is nice and bouncy, although Sumi gets the tune slightly wrong.

Altogether, this is a promising album, although Sumi Tonooka should beware of self-indulgence in longer numbers.

Tony Augarde

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