Sunday, January 24, 2021

Ya Know, I Dunno Yano

 I figured that I needed a break from politics and plague today, so I'd put up a music post.  The genesis of this post is the upsetting news that Bastard fave Ryuichi Sakamoto has been diagnosed with his second bout with cancer.  Me being me, this inspired me to listen to a lot of Sakamoto-san's music- solo experimental stuff, soundtrack work,  and his extensive body of work with Yellow Magic Orchestra.  While poking around, I found a cute video of Sakamoto playing a piano duet of Tong Poo (interspersed with a concert performance of the song) with then-wife and YMO bandmate Akiko Yano:


 I'm primarily familiar, by which I mean solely familiar, with Akiko Yano's work with YMO:


 I paused, said to myself, "Ya know, you dunno Yano." Then I decided to rectify this inexcusable gap in my musical knowledge in the best possible way, by starting with her first record... 

Tokyo-born Akiko Yano learned to play the piano at the age of ten and became a jazz pianist and session museum. In 1976, she recorded her first album, Japanese Girl, with the first side being recorded in the US with Little Feat as her backing band. It's a fantastic album, recently released internationally for the first time, a jazz-rock fusion masterpiece with inflections of Japanese folk music, and in the track Tsugaru tsuā, perhaps a touch of Jamaican music (I'm hearing a hint of Monty Alexander in Ms Yano's piano) :


 Here's Funamachi uta Part II, from the first side of the album, with Little Feat backing:


 Oddly enough, Funamachi uta Part I is on the second side of the album, recorded in Japan and featuring more traditional Japanese elements, with backing by musicians including future YMO bandmate Haruomi Hosono on bass:


 The entire album is terrific, a bravura performance by an artist who displayed technical and creative brilliance at the age of twenty-one. 

I've also worked my way through her second album, Iroha Ni Konpeitou, which incorporates more electronic elements in parts, but for the sake of brevity, I will keep this post focused on the first album. There's a wealth of material from Akiko Yano to explore, material for future blog posts. I'm somewhat chagrined that I wasn't familiar with this music, which never made it to the alternative music stations that played YMO, but I've forgiven myself, even congratulated myself for having this musical exploration to look forward to.

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