Yuko Mabuchi Trio Review on Musicalmemoirs Blog

The following review of the Yuko Mabuchi Trio is from the blog “Musicalmemoirs Blog” written by Dee Dee McNeil.

Yarlung Records

Yuko Mabuchi, piano; Del Atkins, bass; Bobby Breton, drums

This live recording is an awe-inspiring work of art. Pianist Yuko Mabuchi is as exciting on recording as she is in person. Here is a production that sparkles with improvisational creativity, energy, and the piano talents of a young and developing super star. Yarlung’s founder first heard the Yuko Mabuchi Trio at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood. The very next day he offered to record their album. This concert was recorded at the USC campus  in Cammilleri Hall. This space is used for master-classes and recitals. It’s the same concert venue designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, where Yarlung previously recorded Sophisticated Lady Jazz Quartet in 2014. Jazz pianist and educator, Billy Mitchell, served as associate producer on this project.

Opening with Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love, Mabuchi introduces a unique arrangement that showcases her bassist and drummer, as well as accentuating her classical training. She moves from Swing to a Latin tinged arrangement that acts as the perfect platform for Bobby Breton to present his energetic drum solo. I am intrigued with Mabuchi’s piano style. She often sounds like two people are playing piano instead of one, using cross-hand techniques and showing that she is as fluid with her left hand as she is with her right hand. Del Atkins shows himself to be a very melodic bassist, creative and improvisational on his solo. The Mabuchi Trio’s transitions from Swing to Latin are as smooth as velvet. They work in concert and as close as perfectly fitted puzzle pieces.

You can tell this trio has been playing together for some time. Their familiarity offers their listening audience a certain level of comfort. On songs like Valse Noire composed by Mark Louis Lehman, Mabuchi plays with so much emotion and sincerity, I had to stop everything I was doing just so I could give her my entire attention. She plays two-handed “call and response,” toying with the melody. Here is a ballad, once again showing how her technique sounds as though there are four hands at two pianos, instead of one petite and gifted woman poised above the 88-keys. At first, she begins solo. When her band joins in, she digs deep and pulls the blues out of this song, interspersing the arrangement with classical overtones. When the drums and bass drop out once again, the arrangement allows her to successfully solo and familiarize us with the beauty of the melody. This is followed by “Green Dolphin Street,” played nice and easy, with Del Atkins’ bass arrangement holding the trio solidly in place and locking the slow swing tempo solidly with Breton’s tasty drums. Mabuchi rolls atop their rock-solid rhythm section, like sweet butter across a hot pan.

Yuko Mabuchi interprets pop singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles’ composition, Seriously, in a fresh, jazzy way. Then she follows up by creating a medley of Ellington, Jerome Kern and Billy Strayhorn. In celebration of her heritage, she includes a Japanese Medley of Hazy Moon, Cherry Blossom, and Look At the Sky, combining composers Teiichi Okano, Anon, and Hachidai Nakamura. Speaking of composers, she offers us one of her original tunes titled, Sona’s Song and closes with St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins.

This is a soulful CD, combining cultures, like serving grits and gravy with delicious miso soup. This talented lady and her trio are a force of nature that bring musical excellence and energetic excitement to an unforgettable jazz production.

–Dee Dee McNeil

Leave a Reply