If you’ve been to any jazz or funk gigs in the Kanto area over the last couple of years, there’s a good chance you may have seen trombonist Takao Hirose up on stage. In addition to featuring in the horn section for other acts and playing on various recording sessions, Hirose also heads his own band, the five-piece Jazz Collective, with Shin Arai on flute and tenor saxophone alongside Hirose on the frontline, backed by piano/Rhodes, bass and drums. Part of the club circuit for a few years now, the band finally released their first album in April.
Recorded at The Room in Shibuya, Tokyo, their self-titled debut wears its club credentials loud and proud, many of the tracks already firm favorites with jazz dancers across the capital. It showcases the band’s talents as composers as well as their ability to embrace a variety of influences into their music while maintaining their own distinct sound.
Brazilian/jazz fusion flavors that were popular in both Japan and on the British jazz-dance scene in the 1980s are evident in “Eastern Garden” and the Kyoto Jazz Massive-produced cover of Mel Winters’ tune “Halyards.”
“The Jazz Collective” and “Renovation” offer a more contemporary jazz dance sound, both of which are firm live favorites with committed enthusiasts and casual fans alike.
Other tracks fall more into club crossover, with songs such as “Broken” and “Noema” showing a distinct London influence. “Visions Of Phase” lays an almost trancelike dubby trombone over a four-to-the-floor beat. “Metaphysics,” on the other hand, is possibly the most experimental track on the set, with its unusual time signature, though the rhythm is undeniably funky.
Jazz Collective were able to catch the attention of club and radio DJs here and in Europe with what is one of the year’s most inventive and danceable jazz releases. (Sean Smith, www.tokyojazznotes.blogspot.jp)