NAOMI & GORO - Turn Turn Turn
NAOMI & GORO - Presente de Natal Bossa Nova Christmas
MOOSE HILL - Wolf Song

I thought it would be interesting to discuss this cluster of releases as they don't really fit into any one category. I mean, can you call a duo playing Irish harp and acoustic guitar easy listening, classical or is it just "light" jazz? What do all of these releases have in common, you ask? That's simple. All members come from the land of the rising sun, Japan. First up is the duo Tico Moon, which is made up of Yoshino Yuka on Irish harp and acoustic guitarist Kageyama Toshihiko. The sound is a bare, stark and minimal. No gadgetry, just two people sitting down to play what they feel is important and personal music to them. The mood is [dare I say it?] romantic and I'm sure there are people that will melt over this sort of sound. Call it what you will [perhaps this is fluffy jazz or ambient music]; "Lento" turns out to be a perfect record for those snow-filled winter nights.

Naomi & Goro are a self-proclaimed Bossa Nova duo that also believes in the bare minimum sound in their music. Their album "Turn Turn Turn" is another attempt to soothe the mind and the soul. Vocalists Naomi Fuse and guitarist [sometimes vocalist and keyboard player] Goro Ito churn out some original music, along with their own takes of Antonio Carlos Jobim [the delightful "Aguas de Marco"], Sean Lennon [the bittersweet "Into the Sun"] and Joao Donato [the Bossa Nova heavy "O Sapo"]. Naomi's voice is delicate without being brittle. It's lovely without overt amounts of sugar and fluff. As for the guitar playing of Goro Ito, all I can say is that he plays it mightily straight. There isn't much stretching or testing new waters on this album. Then again, for lovers of sweet days gone by, "Turn Turn Turn" is guaranteed to please. Their Christmas album "Presente de Natal Bossa Nova Christmas" is somewhat more adventurous. Simply based on the fact that not too many musicians actually dare to do Bossa Nova Christmas albums, this by itself could be branded as an accomplishment in itself. I don't remember anyone actually coming up with a song titled "Santa on Surfboard", but here it is. Perhaps these two are trying to reach out to the surfer crowd? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, Naomi & Goro are treading their own path a road less traveled. Stubborn and determined, they only play what they feel. I call this honesty.

Just in case the Naomi & Goro duo has a fight, guitarist Goro Ito has just recorded "Wolf Song". Under the guise of Moose Hill, he plays more of the Bossa Nova originals that millions have come to love with his old duo. I'll admit that for a solo guitar album, the concept or the musician has to grab me by the neck and hold me interested for the album's duration. Unfortunately, Ito Goro is neither Sonny Sharrock nor Derek Bailey, so doodling on Ito's guitar was more or less sleep inducing. He just couldn't keep me interested for long enough. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an enemy of composed guitar music. It's just that too many of Ito's pieces lingered in places and moments I'd already visited before. Familiarity breeds contempt is what some might say. "Wolf Song" will only please those who are absolutely nuts about Bossa Nova, or those who like their guitar picking light and serene.

Tom Sekowski

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+ DENMAN MARONEY - Fluxations; WHAT WE LIVE - Quintet for a Day
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