“Swing & Blues” is the name of the game with Big Catch‘s jazz quartet album from 2013. Undoubtedly, the concept of a jazz sax giant meeting a piano trio is a tried and true formula on classic jazz albums (“Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson” and “Coleman Hawkins with the Red Garland Trio” come to mind), and this quartet upholds the tradition properly with a big sound and spirit, singing and swinging, bluesy and fun all-around good-feeling jazz.
As “meets” indicates, Big Catch is led by two well-traveled and in-demand jazz players, saxophonist Wataru Hamasaki and pianist Akane Matsumoto, each active in popular groups in the J Jazz scene. With Big Catch, the horn player meets the piano trio and forms a quartet focused on turning out bold sounds of full-bodied jazz, groovy, bluesy, and full of pep.
With 11 tracks of mostly original songs and several jazz covers, the sound runs from mid-tempo groovy swing jazz (“Big Catch”, “Mean What You Say”) to exciting, up-tempo whiplashers, where the players gleefully race at speed, urging listeners to hang on for the ride (“Hiding Place”, “Playing”). For straight-ahead, satisfying jazz sax, comparisons could be made to the sounds of Gene Ammons, Ben Webster, and Coleman Hawkins, just to name a few. Among the tracks, two slower ballads are included, adding a nice balance of mellow comfort and lyricism (“If You Need A Friend” and “Monica”, where the soprano sax adds a floating, softly romantic sound).
While most of the tracks feature tenor sax, Hamasaki also adds color with soprano sax and flute, expertly played. On two tracks, Matsumoto takes center stage in piano trio format, on a straight-ahead version of “Love Letter” and her crowd-pleasing original tune “JJ”, putting her impressive Phineas Newborn/Oscar Peterson-like piano dexterity on full display.
Cover art by Akane Matsumoto (dig those Big Catch big cats having a ball on the cover: “Swinging Soooo Hard!”).
- Wataru Hamasaki – tenor and soprano sax, flute
- Akane Matsumoto – piano
- Yasushi Gonjyo – bass
- Tatsuhiko Takeda – drums
- Osamu Hikage – bass (#3, 5, 6, 9)
- Kazuyoshi Kuroda – drums (#3, 5, 6, 9)
- Ryosuke Asai – alto sax (#6)
Released in 2013 on Concept Records as CR-01.
* Audio sample at top of page from “Big Catch”, the first song on the album.