If you have not had the pleasure making the acquaintance of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto before, then this is a fine way to do.

Evosound EVSA2536M

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (piano); Hiroshi Kagawa (bass); Toshio Osumi (drums)

Recorded 9th December 2021

A shade of blue indeed, and a particularly attractive hue it is. This is Japanese pianist Yamamoto’s debut album for the Evosound imprint, but for those not familiar there is a comprehensive discography for the pianist recorded over the last forty years.

A self-taught musician, Tsuyoshi Yamamoto has an impressive CV from being the house pianist at Japanese jazz club called Misty in 1974 to playing international festivals as well as spending time in New York. During his time in the Big Apple where he performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae and Elvin Jones among others. Now in his mid-seventies, the pianist is still keeping busy, and making music at an incredibly high level.

On the face of this is just another standards album by a piano led trio, but on careful and repeated listening it is so much more. Opening with the first of only two original compositions with ‘Speed Ball Blues’ we are presented with just that. A dazzling display that for all its virtuosity shows that the pianist has the know how to use his technique to his advantage. A medium fast blues that has genuine excitement and a speed ball like game of catch the quotation.

The trio continue to produce one surprise after another in a set of standards that you think you have heard before but deliver up in a manner that recalls Red Garland, Ahmed Jamal and the sheer exuberance of Wynton Kelly. Melody is paramount, both that of the composer and the soloist, and the classic sound of the trio is one to bask in.

‘The Way We Were’ is a tender ballad, and the use of space is an integral part of the pianist’s approach. At times he leaves so much space between the notes that we are left hanging waiting for the next note, and Yamamoto taking delight in leaving it until the very last moment to move on.

Gato Barbieri’s Grammy winning composition ‘Last Tango In Paris’ is given a thorough investigation, and Latin influenced version reveals a different side of Yomamoto in his interpretation of the melody.

If once again one thinks of Red Garland on ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, Yamamoto manages to steer clear of any Garnerisms in his rendition of ‘Misty’, a tune he has recorded on a number of occasions in the past. The pianist stamps his authority all over ‘Like Someone In Love’ which swings mightily.

If you have not had the pleasure making the acquaintance of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto before, then this is a fine way to do.