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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke


M. SASAJI & L.A. ALLSTARS
BIRDLAND

Masanori Sasaji-Piano with a varied personnel made up of L.A. studio players including Ernie Watts, Vinnie Colaiuta, Alex Acuna, Jack Nimitz, Sheridan Stokes, Gary Foster, Dean Parks, Brandon Field.
Recorded L.A.-no date given.
Columbia 501 734-2
Crotchet

1. Birdland
2. Girl Talk
3. Green Flower Street
4. My Favourite Things
5. Freedom Jazz Dance
6. Interplay
7. The Sidewinder
8. The Look Of Love
9. Gymno Pedie (sic)

According to the cover notes Sasaji was born in Japan in 1955 and lists his favourite musicians as Miles Davis,The Beatles and Maurice Ravel. This catholic taste is reflected in the selections here which range, in terms of composers, from Erik Satie to Joe Zawinul with nods to Burt Bacharach and Richard Rodgers along the way. If one were to attempt to categorise the music on this disc "smooth jazz" would seem to be the most appropriate currently used terminology.

Sasaji describes the performances here as his explorations of the possibilities inherent in the Big Band format. These pieces are all arranged by him and feature,in his words,"the world's top players."

The overall feeling of the disc is pleasant and the orchestrations have a "student" air to them. This is not meant in a derogatory sense but there is a quality of experimentation and an attempt, in places, to escape from the norm without becoming at all "way out."

The performances, as one would expect with this personnel, are never less than excellent and are, in places, inspired. As always, Ernie Watts acquits himself admirably on "Birdland" and "Freedom Jazz Dance". There are also good saxophone solos from Brandon Fields on "My Favourite Things" and from Dan Higgins on "The Sidewinder" and "Gymnopedie".

"Girl Talk" is a gentle arrangement and features some pleasant muted trumpet from Warren Luening. "The Look Of Love" is mainly a vocal showcase for Penny Ford who, whilst not having a particularly strong voice, is well suited to this song and offers a wistful performance.

This disc would have great appeal for the listener who appreciates "middle of the road" music. However, there are enough bright moments to attract the attention of any follower of contemporary big band sounds.

Dick Stafford.

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.


 



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