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The Tokyo Blues

Blue Note 50999 2 65416 2 8




  1. Too much sake [6:43]
  2. Sayonara blues [12:10]
  3. The Tokyo blues [7:36]
  4. Cherry blossom [6:08]
  5. Ah! So [7:07]

All compositions by Horace Silver except track 4 by Ronnell Bright.

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA on July 13 (Tracks 2&3) and July 14 (Tracks 1,4&5) 1962.
Remastered in 2008 by Rudy Van Gelder.

Blue Mitchell, Trumpet
Junior Cook, Tenor Sax
Horace Silver, Piano
Gene Taylor, Bass
John Harris,JR., Drums

There was much anticipation ahead of the visit that the Horace Silver Quintet made to Japan and which began on December 30th 1961. Coupled with the hype that had gone on before, which included many articles in magazines, incorporating complete discographies, the arrival just before New Year 1962 was in a way symbolic since New Year is highly significant for the Japanese. They regard New Year as a cleansing of the past and a preparation for a new way of life and Horace's music brought Japanese jazz fans a totally new and refreshing jazz experience and it cemented ties between his quartet and his fans in Japan which have only become closer over the ensuing years.

Clearly Horace took inspiration from his visit there since several of the compositions on this album are dedicated to his fans there and embody much of their favourite aspects of his music. In his dedication on this disc 'to our many fans in Japan and to all of the Japanese people' Horace wrote that 'While in Japan I noticed that the Japanese people were very fond of Latin music…In writing some of these compositions I have attempted to combine the Japanese feeling in the melodies with the Latin feeling in the rhythms.' The extent to which he was successful in his attempt to do this is remarkable and it makes for one of his most successful and sought after discs - never was musical schizophrenia more wildly attractive!

Horace, of course, has an immediately appealing and recognisable piano style, anchoring the music as he does with the repeated chords from his left hand that form the musical canvas upon which his other musicians paint their colourful rhythmic patterns. Listen for this in particular on Sayonara Blues in which Junior Cook weaves a haunting melody against this background. The disc begins with a track Too much sake, the title of which is self explanatory and which emphasises that though sake appears innocent enough, because it goes down so easily and is not particularly strong, it is all the more likely to catch you up many cups later!

Even with this clearly thoroughly Japanese theme the extent to which Horace Silver managed to incorporate the Latin elements is highly inventive. The Tokyo Blues is an affectionate composition that highlights the fact that wherever they toured in Japan it felt like coming home when they returned to Tokyo and so it is the most Japanese sounding of all the tunes composed as a result of the tour but still the Latin element is clearly defined. Cherry Blossom is the sole non Horace Silver composition on the disc, written by an old friend Ronnell Bright, a one time accompanist of the great Sarah Vaughan, and was especially written for this album and the result is a lovely slow moving ballad, a type that both Ronnell and Horace particularly enjoy. The final track Ah! So is the most complex on the disc and has no Latin influence. It is unusual in that the melody is played out of tempo while the solos are played in tempo and after several playings the title seemed to Horace to suggest itself and is 100% Horace Silver and possessed of the driving rhythmic basis that makes any Horace Silver composition such a tremendous experience.

Throughout the music the rhythm section of Gene Taylor and John Harris JR is a solid base and excellent support with Harris never obtrusive and both of them essential ingredients in the mix. Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook are clearly soul buddies and they spark off each other in a most inspiring way and with Horace as the backbone this disc is one of the most wonderful of his quintet's long and illustrious list of recordings. Not to be missed!

Steve Arloff

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