By Martin Longley | Published July 2019
Beginning his career as a sideman and then leading his own ensembles for about 25 years, drummer Akira Tana now has issued his third album with Otonowa, an outfit formed in 2012 to help raise funds to aid Japan in the wake of a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The opening run of compositions on Ai San San (Love’s Radiance) comes off as pretty conventional jazz, Art Hirahara providing functional piano comping and Masaru Koga issuing robust tenor solos. The title track is delicate and tentative, with a shakuhachi flute solo and percussive taiko drum detail, but tends toward bland, rather than poignant.
Matters improve with the fourth track, where Shoko Hikage plays koto, flecks of tango being ground into the mix. “Habu No Minato” also is superior fare, abruptly speeding up, getting jazzier, invigorated by a flowing soprano solo. “Mura Matsuri” has a breezily Caribbean character, but with added bite, and “Tsunagareta Tairyo-bata” balances jazz and Japanese traditions, featuring an open-hearted flute solo.
Ai San San (Love’s Radiance): Antagata Dokosa; Ai San San; Hinokuni Ryojo; Habu No Minato; Mura Matsuri; Hamabe No Uta; Natsu; Taiyo Ni Hoero; Tsunagareta Tairyo-bata; Kando; Peace. (59:13)
Personnel: Akira Tana, drums; Noriyuki Ken Okada, bass; Art Hirahara, piano; Masaru Koga, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, shakuhachi; Shoko Hikage (4), koto; Kenny Endo, percussion; Tetsuya Tatsumi (9), cornet.