Japanese drummer Yasuhiro Yoshigaki is one of the most influential drummers in the left-off-center alternative music scene in Japan. A close collaborator of sound sculptor Otomo Yoshihide
, included in all incarnations of Yoshihide's New Jazz Quintet/Ensemble/Orchestra, and member of the groups Emergency!
(with Yoshihide), Altered States (with guitarist Uchihashi Kazuhisa), Rovo (with violinist Yuji Katsui, former member of Shibusashirazu Orchestra) and leader of the percussion ensemble Orquesta Nudge! Nudge!.
Yoshigaki is a versatile and resourceful improviser, arranger and composer that can play the trumpet in addition to the drums and percussion, can feel at home with a traditional klezmer band, and enjoy arranging music from musicals, films or pop songs from the Sixties and Seventies. Therefore his new, ten-member Orquesta Libre eclectic repertoire should not be surprising. This horn and percussion ensemble redefines and personifies well known standards and songs in a delightful manner.
Orquesta LibreCan't Help Falling In Love (Suki ni Narazu ni Irarenai)
This album is subtitled Orquesta Libre Plays Standards Instrumental Version
. The arrangements contrast the horn section with the rhythm section and usually emphasize one or two horn above the other instruments, thus creating a poignant and colorful choir of colors, shades and emotions. These carefully structured arrangements are interspersed with eccentric comments by the musicians, who are not afraod to add a sudden noisy percussive sound, or screaming blows to the tight and powerful interplay.
The choice of covers is indeed eclectic. An energetic arrangement of Argentinian tango master Carlos Gardel, a driving cover of Deep Purple's early hit, "Hush," where the horns replace the role of Jon Lord's Hammond organ and guitarist Motomu Shiiya compete's with Ritchie Blackmore's guitar pyrotechnics and speed, and a relaxed, percussion-laden, cover of Jimi Hendrix
' "Purple Haze," again with an impressive subtle guitar work of Shiiya.
The arrangements of Burt Bacharach
's "I Say A Little Prayer" and "Close To You" stress the shiny optimism of Bacharach songs, the sophisticated rhythmic structureand its captivating momentum on the first songand the rich and lush spectrum of polyphonic voices of the horn section, arranged beautifully on the latter song. The arrangement of Jerry Herman
's song "Hello Dolly," identified with Louis Armstrong
, takes this song to the early days of jazz, and highlights Takao Watanabe's trumpet in a playful duel with the banjo of Shiiya, before the Orquesta Libre joins in a New Orleans-Dixieland celebration. Ennio Morricone's cinematic "Le Clan Des Siciliens}} demonstrates how the rhythmic sectionespecially the vibes of Kumiko Takara/Massimo Pupillo/Paal Nilssen-Love
and the bass of Masato Suzukiset the atmosphere and the tension of this composition. The most ambitious arrangement is of the title song, recorded by Elvis Presley
and many others. This cover strips this song of its original saccharine layers and exposes the inner architecture of the rhythmic elements and the infectious melody and harmony.
Orquesta Libre & Yoichiro Yanagihara & Yuichi OhataUta No Ka-Ta-Ti
This double album features Orquesta Libre with two singer-songwriters. On the first disc, the red one, Orquesta Libre covers four songs of Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht"Alabama Song" from the opera Rise and the Fall of the City of Mahagony
and three more from The Threepenny Opera
. Vocalist Yochiro Yanagihara expresses the emotional essence of these songslove, lies, betrayal and chaoswith a dramatic delivery, full of wit, sarcasm and sober, distant humor. The live version of "The Ballad of Mack the Knife," sung in Japanese, is the best of these covers. Yanagihara's portrait of the tragic character of Mack is reserved and nuanced while the powerful arrangement of the horns adds dramatic key elements. The other covers on this disc are a sentimental and straight-ahead arrangement of Cole Porter
's "Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye," Bacharach's theme song from the film "Alfie" and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile."
The second disc, the yellow one, is more varied and eclectic in its joyful moods and spirit. The Orquesta Libre begins with a festive, driving, instrumental Afro-Cuban arrangement of Paul Simon
's "Cecilia" that puts the rhythm section in the front. Blues and folk songwriter Yuichi Ohata joins for a nostalgic, soulful cover of cult figure Hiroshi "Monsieur" Kamayatsu's song. The emotional innocence of the German love song "Lili Marleen," popular during World War II with soldiers of both sides, is confronted with marching drums. The addition of Ohata vocals to the arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" retains the reserved, distant tone of this cover. Ohata's delivery is fragile, sober and disillusioned about the psychedelic experience described in this song. This disc is closed with an acoustic, playful reggae cover of Bob Dylan
's "I Shall Be Released," less urgent and doubtful than Dylan's performances of this song, but one that still believes in its message.
The careful and imaginative arrangements of Orquesta Libre, the instrumental ones and the ones with vocalists, brings new life to these timeless gems.
Tracks and Personnel Can't Help Falling In Love (Suki ni Narazu ni Irarenai)
Tracks: Por Una Cabeza; Hush; Purple Haze; I Say A little Prayer; Close To You; Hello Dolly; Le Clan Des Siciliens; Ponta De Areia; Can't Help Falling In Love.
Personnel: Yasuhiro Yoshigaki: drums, percussion; Taisei Aoki: trombone, key-harmonica; Hiroyuki Shiotani: soprano saxophone, clarinet; Daisuke Fujiwara: tenor saxophone; Takao Watanabe: trumpet; Gideon Juckes: tuba; Kumiko Takara: vibraphone, percussion; Masato suzuki: bass; Motomu Shiiya: guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo; Yoichi Okabe: percussion. Uta No Ka-Ta-Ti
Tracks: Red Disc: Alabama song; Die Ballade von der sexuellen Hörigkeit (Ballad of Sexual Dependency); Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (The Ballad of Mack the Knife); Ballade über die Frage Wovon lebt der Mensch; Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye; Alfie; Smile. Yellow Disc: Cecilia; Gaulois o Suttakoto ga Arukai; Lili Marleen; Les Champs-Elysées; Purple Haze; I Shall Be Released .
Personnel: Yasuhiro Yoshigaki: drums, percussion; Taisei Aoki: trombone, key-harmonica; Hiroyuki Shiotani: soprano saxophone, clarinet; Daisuke Fujiwara: tenor saxophone; Takao Watanabe: trumpet; Gideon Juckes: tuba; Kumiko Takara: vibraphone, percussion, key- harmonica; Masato suzuki: bass, guitar; Motomu Shiiya: guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo; Yoichi Okabe: percussion; guest vocalists: Yoichiro Yanagihara: vocals, guitar; Yuichi Ohata: vocals, guitar.