11/23/2008 04:10:00 AM / Comments (3) / by Punda Jazz@u
Audio CD (January 10, 2005)
Original Release Date: January 3, 2005
Number of Discs: 2
Label: Avex Trax
1. Route 66
3. And The Melody Still Lingers On
5. Fly Me To The Moon
7. Face I Love
8. Girl From Ipanema
9. It's Only A Paper Moon
10. Orange Colored Sky
11. Very Thought Of You
12. (I Can Recall) Spain
13. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
14. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
15. You're Everything
16. Calling You
COCO d'OR is an English-language album of jazz standards by hiro (aka Hiroko Shimabukuro). Hiro is a Japanese-pop (j-pop) teen idol from the very popular all-girl quartet Speed. Now, creating an artistically successful vocal jazz album is a tough mountain to climb even for established jazz singers. Yet amazingly, hiro has concocted a highly listenable, very enjoyable album, aided by an intriguing song selection and some of Japan's top producers. Sure, hiro won't make anyone forget Billie Holiday, but then again neither will Diana Krall or anyone else. Yet I'm impressed by hiro's feel for the tunes, as well as her vocal fluidity and confidence. I mean, one just can't walk into these tunes without considerable prior exposure and expect to land on one's feet.
She sings with a light accent that i.m.o. is rarely a distraction. And that is eclipsed by a vocal approach that demonstrates more freedom melodically, rhythmically, and even harmonically than I dared to expect beforehand. She was 20 years old when she cut this album, meaning her voice has the weight of the world under her feet rather than on her shoulders (and thus probably not suited to everyone's tastes). Yet I'm happy that she sounds like no one else who sings this type of material. On rare occasions such as the end of "Night In Tunisia" I'd say her vocals get a bit too enthusiastic. Otherwise she sings confidently and with admirable good taste, at times sounding quite gorgeous (i.e., "Girl From Ipanema," Holly Cole's "Calling You," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "The Very Thought Of You," and "Misty"). Overall she seems to understand that these tunes require depth as well as agility.
Roughly half of the album's production is by Akio Suzuki (e.g., "Route 66," "Lullaby Of Birdland"), and tend toward straight-ahead retro-jazz. Other contributions are more contemporary in feel. I was floored by Fried Pride's mellow, guitar-driven funk/jazz updating of "Summertime." Another highlight is the mid-tempo cool jazz arrangement by Takeshi Nakatsuka of Deniece Williams' hit "Free." Coldfeet's two cuts ("Fly Me To The Moon" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love") remind me of their recent JAZZFEET project, while Ken Shima keeps it simple for "The Very Thought Of You." Suitcase Air Line find a flowing groove for Chick Corea's "(I Can Recall) Spain," and Yukihiro Fukutomi transforms "And The Melody Still Lingers On (Night In Tunisia)" into a smooth Latin jazz cut via his in-the-current groove sound. Beret scores with "The Face I Love," and Tatsuo Sunaga (who produced Akiko's recent albums) creates a nice backdrop for "Calling You." Quite a lot of talent behind hiro.
By the way, this complete edition has three more tunes and a DVD than the original release. The DVD has two videoclips and some bonus footage, and is region-coded 2 (so viewers outside of Japan will need a code-free player). Yet the DVD is merely icing on the cake. COCO d'OR isn't a perfect album, but it is a surprising "sum greater than the parts" success that leaves me hoping for an encore.
review by J. Lund "jazzbrat"
Posted in: Coco d'Or
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