Emi Makabe

(Greenleaf Music)

A love of jazz led Emi Makabe to leave her native Japan for New York. But the singer and composer didn’t shake the folk music she’d learned from her mother, nor the music of The Beatles and Joni Mitchell she listened to once she arrived in the States back in 2008.

Those foundations collide with other styles on her breezy second album that immediately grabs the listener with the brittle twang of the shamisen, a three-string lute, for the opener “Treeing.” That instrument’s timbre provides an unexpected jolt to the elastic piano trio that percolates behind her crystalline, deeply melodic Japanese-language singing. She only plays shamisen on three of the album’s 11 tracks, but her understanding of how its spiky tone adds complexity to an otherwise airy sound reveals Makabe’s deft handling of disparate components. The album’s title piece is both a celebration of her first decade in New York—the recording was made in 2018—and a salve she composed for bassist Thomas Morgan on their wedding anniversary, given the lengthy separations coupled working musicians endure while one or the other is on the road. Morgan, one of the most versatile and subtle bassists of his generation, is the band’s anchor, complemented here by drummer Kenny Wollesen and keyboardist Vitor Gonçalves. —Peter Margasak

Anniversary: Treeing; Joy; Chimney Sweeper; Moon & I; Something Love; Flash; I Saw The Light; Mielcke; O Street; Rino: Anniversary. (48:28)

Personnel: Emi Makabe, vocals, shamisen; Vitor Gonçalves, piano, accordion; Thomas Morgan, bass; Kenny Wollesen, drums, vibraphone.

Ordering info: greenleafmusic.com

On Sale Now
September 2023
Kris Davis
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