Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra
Under this mountain of jazz is a heart of solid orchestration, and the result of that blend is a dreamy and vintage feel of music unencumbered by convention or fixed melody. A strong brass lineup features no less than five saxophones, four flugelhorns, a quartet of trumpets, and a trio of trombones. Perhaps they aren’t all playing at the same time, but it feels like a battle of the solos. The band is led by the enigmatic Ms. Kakitani; she’s from Japan but has an obsession for American modern jazz, circa 1950-something. You hear the echoes of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and she’s pulled together an impressive 18-piece orchestra to handle all those instruments piled up above. Individual cuts have mysterious and inexplicable tiles such as “Bumblebee Garden” and “Dragonfly’s Glasses”; I’m sure there’s some deep significance to her choice of titles but it eludes me, as does all jazz nomenclature.
Still, all you hear is wonderful. Her jazz soars and swoops and takes us from introspective navel gazing to a finger snapping dream world with its subtext of “Oh, yeah, daddy, groove on!” Occasional nods to Japanese court singing float by, and like all good jazz there’s no set length for any jam. The themes are explored until completely mapped and then left as markers of cool. Waaayyyy cool. You can, in fact dig it.