TOSHIKO AKIYOSHI — Long Yellow Road (review)

TOSHIKO AKIYOSHI — Long Yellow Road album cover Album · 1975 · Progressive Big Band Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
Start here.

If you're a fan of Progressive Big Band, and even Big Band or maybe Hard Bop, you should dig this. Much like Toshiko Akiyoshi and husband Lew Tabackin's previous album (Kogun) 'Long Yellow Road' is a stunning big band workout with inventive arrangements and great soloing from a range of instruments, including (among other players) piano from Akiyoshi and sax and flute from Lew.

Everything that is enjoyable about 'Kogun' is retained, improved and added to here. Once more Akiyoshi's arrangements are most impressive indeed. What makes them so good is their blend of the unexpected with the familiar - take the title track which leads off the album with something of a fanfare before switching to a bit of big band 'cool' and is in turn followed by 'The First Night' where playful flute gives was to a really swinging middle section.

'Opus No. Zero' is a classic-sounding Big Band piece with lots of space for horn solos and is an obvious standout, with a great tempo change that kicks things along. Next comes 'Quadirlle, Anyone?' with perhaps the best sax and trumpet interplay in the album, where the shifting rhythms do conjure up a complex dance.

And the piece that I haven't been able to stop playing? In some ways more sparse than the others, but also more subtly arranged, 'Children in the Temple Ground' is a triumph, using the big band to support melody in such an effective way that you forget you're listening to a large cast of players. Aside from the brilliant meeting of musical traditions heard in the song, it features wonderful extended soloing by Akiyoshi, something that I'd been craving.

To close the album is a split track 'Since Perry/Yet Another Tear' the first half (a hard bop/big band piece) written by Akiyoshi and the second (by Tabackin) which is more of a ballad, at first focusing on piano and sax, and then building to incorporate a fuller sound, the track being a little weaker than the rest of the record.

Once again, start here. It's the best way I can say it, start here. Five stars for me, no hesitation.
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