Chihiro Yamanaka’s second release When October Goes was released in 2002, a natural followup to her impressive debut Living Without Friday released the prior year. This second album features the pianist playing with new recording members Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums, who would each go on to join the Brad Mehldau Trio, recording and touring to great acclaim like Yamanaka herself.
The ten tracks on When October Goes include three original songs, with the balance of the music being jazz standards and rearranged songs.
The opening original number “Taxi” is a highlight, a great way to open the set with creative modern jazz and scintillating piano improv. The other two originals reveal a humorous side to go along with her prodigious jazz talent: “Plum the Cow”, named for a neighbor’s bovine pet, is a quirky uptempo blues, while “S.L.S. (Silly Little Song)” is an ultra-catchy odd-meter tune with swirling keyboards, easily hooking the listener all the way to the don’t-want-it-to-end fade-out.
Not just high-energy swing, the emotional ballad “When October Goes” is delivered with deserving finesse and care for the music. Other jazz covers include “Just In Time”, “In A Mellow Tone”, and George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”, masterfully reinvented with novel accents and an extended vamp for the pianist to lay out twisty improvisations over an in-the-pocket rhythm section groove.
Along with jazz and pop standards, Yamanaka also includes her upbeat jazz version of a Japanese traditional song “Yagi Bushi” (revisited on her 2005 album “Outside by the Swing”) and a memorable pick of Keith Jarrett’s “Paint My Heart Red”, where the pianists’ long, fluid lines spin gracefully over soft jazz chords with a mesmerizing beat.
Leader: Chihiro Yamanaka · 山中千尋 · http://www.chihiroyamanaka.com/
- Chihiro Yamanaka – piano
- Larry Grenadier – bass
- Jeff Ballard – drums
When October Goes received numerous awards upon release, including four weeks at #1 on the HMV Weekly Modern Jazz Chart, 33 weeks at #1 on the HMV Yearly Modern Jazz Chart, and 2003 HMV Grand Prize Record of the Year for Best Japanese Jazz Album.
* Audio sample at top of page from “Taxi”, the first track on this album.