1. Tokyo Traffic
2. Rising Sun
3. Toki's Theme
5. Zen Is When
6. The City Is Crying
7. Osaka Blues
8. Koto Song
1. "Toki's Theme" was used in the CBS, TV series, Mr. Broadway.
2. Released on CD in Japan under the "Sony Master Sound" series in standard CD format - Sony Records SRCS 9367.
3. Released as CD in Japan in mini LP format - Sony Records SRCS 9367.
4. Included in the Columbia Legacy release in 2011 The Dave Brubeck Quartet - The Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1955 - 1966 - 19 albums packaged in a replica mini-LP sleeve.
All About Jazz Review
Dave Brubeck has always been able to effectively communicate with the average "Joe." His compositions bring a spark of recognition. It's jazz, but with an underlying meaning easy enough to comprehend at first listen. Stereotypes enter the picture when particular harmonies are employed or when distinctive rhythms dance freely. His quartet could easily make "Chopsticks" appeal to the masses with a moody intro, an easy-to-recognize head melody, inspired solos all around, and a return to the starting point.
With the exception of "Zen is When," the session was recorded in June 1964. The LP was released the following August. It's been out of print for quite some time, and this is the album's first reissue on CD. Since it's been re-mastered, the sound works out rather well. As a reissue, however, the CD runs only thirty-five minutes.
Brubeck had carried a sketchpad with him on the quartet's tour of Japan earlier that year. On the sketchpad, he had made detailed notes about his impressions and related musical themes that he intended to pursue. Naturally, the music contains temple blocks, gongs, open harmony and contrapuntal forms of impressionism.
In Brubeck's original liner notes to the album, he says, "In their own 'pop' music, the Japanese seem to parody themselves, using parallel fourths and other Western ideas of how the Oriental should sound, performed with a 'Rock-a-Billy' beat." Brubeck employs these ideas himself a few times. Once the quartet gets into each piece, however, they're off and running. The Dave Brubeck Quartet carries an unmistakably light swing.
Split between ballads and up-tempo jazz jaunts, the session depicts various landscapes. A serene ballad, "Fujiyama" moves slowly with majesty. "The City is Crying" echoes scenes from a spring rainstorm, while "Koto Song" depicts the traditional artistry practiced by many. Brubeck's impressions of Japan relate to our general thoughts on the subject, bringing us together in more ways than one.
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All Music Guide Review copyright
Thirteen years into their tenure, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was still able to mine the creative vein for new means of expression. Despite the hits and popularity on college campuses, or perhaps because of it, Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello composed a restless band with a distinctive sound. These eight tracks, all based on a tour of Japan the year before, were, in a sense, Brubeck fulfilling a dictum from his teacher, the French composer Darius Milhaud, who exhorted him to "travel the world and keep your ears open."
The sketches Brubeck and Desmond created all invoke the East, particularly the folk melodies of Japan directly, while still managing to use the Debussian impressionistic approach to jazz that kept them riding the charts and creating a body of music that, while playing into the exotica craze of the moment, was still jazz composed and played with integrity. The gorgeous modal blues that uses Eastern scale whole tones with Western harmonic notions -- chromatically -- that comprise the melody and solo frameworks for Desmond in "Fujiyama" are a beautiful contrast to the relatively straight-ahead ballad style featured on "Zen Is When," with its 4/4 time sling rhythm and simple melody -- extrapolated by Brubeck in purely Japanese whole tone scale on the harmony.
Also, the shimmer and whisper of "The City Is Crying," where Desmond's solo is one of the most beautiful of his career, using arpeggios as half tones to reach down into the middle of his horn's register and play harmonically a counterpoint that is as painterly as it is poignant. On "Osaka Blues," Brubeck once again reaches for an oriental scale to play a modal blues ΰ la Miles Davis with Wynton Kelly; Desmond responds by playing straight post-bop Bluesology with even a squeak or two in his solo. In all, Jazz Impressions of Japan is one of the great forgotten Brubeck records. Its sweetness is tempered with musical adventure and the improvisational experience only a band that had been together 13 years could provide. It's truly wonderful.
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