Thursday, April 3, 2008

Taeko Fukao: One Love

Flat Nine Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.3.08
Buy CD: One Love

Japanese-born Taeko Fukao moved to New York City in 1998, intending to expand her vocal career; she became intrigued with jazz. She chose her teachers wisely; one had been a vocalist with the Thad Jones orchestra , while another was a disciple of Jon Hendricks. 

Fukao's voice is pitched a tad higher than most jazz singers, but it's clean and clear, and she has an excellent command of it. She knows how to alter melodic lines, which creates the impression of a musical instrument, rather than just another voice. Her phrasing augments this effect. 

She opens and closes this album with very short versions of the title tune, then works her way through a mix of standard American tunes — "It Could Happen to You," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "I Hear a Rhapsody" — and unfamiliar (to us) songs that highlight her command of Asian melodic lines and chord structures. 

She sings a little too softly at times; a more authoritative approach would draw more audience attention, particularly when she "scats" (the Jon Hendricks influence) on upper-tempo tunes. The latter style is very tough to learn and, at present, Fukao still needs some work. 

Her backup group is quite good. Two pianists (Harry Whitaker and Misha Tsiganov) and two bassists (Duane Burno and Gaku Takanashi) share the tracks; Doug Richardson, one of the album's producers, also performs on both drums and piano. 

Fukao has been featured at several of the upper echelon of jazz clubs in New York City, and she seems to be off to a good start.

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