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Answer July

PND Records 88295 45908





  1. Tiny Snow

  2. Answer July

  3. Without Any Moon Or Rain

  4. Just A Little Wine

  5. You And Me

  6. The Very Secret Spring

  7. Mischievous Mouse

  8. The Garden Christmas

    Senri Oe - Piano

    Jim Robertson - Bass

    Yacine Boulares - Saxophones

    Reggie Quinerly - Drums (tracks 1-5, 7)

    Andy Watson - Drums (track 6)

    E. J. Strickland - Drums (track 8)

    Paul Tafoya - Trumpet (track 8)

    Olga Trofimova - Trombone (track 8)

    Sheila Jordan - Vocals (tracks 1, 7)

    Becca Stevens - Vocals (track 2)

    Lauren Kinhan - Vocals (tracks 3, 6, 8)

    Dylan Pramuk - Vocals (track 3)

    Theo Bleckmann - Vocals (track 4)

    Travon Anderson, Junko Arita - Vocals (track 5)

    Mitch Wilson, Travon Anderson, Junko Arita - Background vocals (track 8)

    The New School Singers - Background vocals (track 7)

    Senri Oe took a leap of faith back in 2008 when he left his native Japan to move to New York City in order to study jazz piano at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He was 47 years old at the time and over a 25 year period had known success as a singer/songwriter, actor and radio host in his homeland. Soon after graduation from the New School in 2012, he founded his own record and music company, PND Records (the initials stand for 'Peace Never Dies'). He has quickly made a name as a leader and the album under review here is his fourth. The vastly experienced and unique vocal stylist Sheila Jordan, now in her late 80s, joins him for a couple of numbers on the disc. There is plenty of younger vocal talent around on this recording, too. Senri has written all the music but the lyrics were contributed by the veteran Jon Hendricks on three occasions and also by other vocalists present here, the sole exception being the brief You And Me.

    Standout tracks are Answer July,The Very Secret Spring and, not far behind for quality, The Garden Christmas. Answer July is a charming ballad notable for Becca Stevens' pure-toned and lovely voice (she supplied the lyrics), minimalist piano from Senri and Yacine Boulares' contribution on tenor sax. On The Very Secret Spring, Lauren Kinhan sings with understanding and flair, sympathetically accompanied by Senri, as we might expect on a composition where they shared the writing honours. Kinhan's voice puts me in mind of the UK's Clare Teal (never a bad thing). The Garden Christmas finds guests Paul Tafoya (trumpet) and Olga Trofimova (trombone) providing distinctly groovy musical enhancement to a swinging item which sees Kinhan on lead vocal once more. Senri on piano is quietly effective, even quirky (I swear I heard a quote from the bebop tune Salt Peanuts at one point).

    The two tracks where Sheila Jordan provides vocals are Tiny Snow and Mischievous Mouse. The first of these features a robust piano solo and some adventurous playing from Boulares. Jordan's voice is inevitably sounding frail with a slight tremor yet she still manages to carry it off, with a touch of scat to finish. The second track on which she appears is out-and-out fun and she delivers the whimsical lyrics (thank you, Jon Hendricks) with her customary relaxed inflection, backed by The New School Singers. Talking of singers, I thoroughly enjoyed the rich voice of Theo Bleckmann on the wistful balladJust A Little Wine. There is similar vocal quality on Without Any Moon Or Rain where the duo of Lauren Kinhan and Dylan Pramuk took me back to the days of Jackie Cain and Roy Kral. In fact, the only track where I experienced a sense of slight disappointment was You And Me.

    How then has Senri Oe's American adventure played out so far? On the evidence of this album, very promisingly indeed.

    James Poore

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