Album of the Week: Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio, ‘A Shade of Blue’

At 75 years old, Japanese jazz pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto continues to showcase his pianistic brilliance, crafting a personal love letter to the classic piano trio on evosound debut, A Shade of Blue.

Born in 1948 on the Japanese island of Niigata, Tsuyoshi Yamamoto developed a passion for the piano during his formative years in elementary school. His introduction to the world of jazz occurred when he immersed himself in the soundtrack to the 1959 French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. In 1967, Yamamoto embarked on his professional journey by touring with renowned Japanese actor and musician Mickey Curtis. Subsequent collaborations with illustrious artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones and Carmen McRae helped further elevate his name to international acclaim.

Now, at the age of 75, Yamamoto stands as a revered elder statesman of Japanese jazz, boasting a remarkable career spanning over six decades. As a bandleader, he has produced over 20 albums and contributed to numerous other acclaimed sessions. His latest recording, A Shade of Blue, marks his debut for evosound and serves as a personal love letter to the piano trio format. For this project, Yamamoto assembled a highly experienced band, including 79-year-old drummer Toshio Osumi, and the youngest of the trio, 61-year-old bassist Hiroshi Kagawa.

True to the album’s concept, the tracklist comprises songs of special significance to Yamamoto, many of which he recorded previously, and some paying homage to Erroll Garner, Wynton Kelly and Red Garland, three of his major influences. Additionally, A Shade of Blue also features new renditions of two original Yamamoto compositions: the lively “Speed Ball Blues” from his 1975 album Blues for Tee and the late-night grooved “Midnight Sugar” from his 1974 release on the Three Blind Mice label.

Throughout the album, Yamamoto’s playing exudes effervescence and grace, whether delivering a spirited interpretation of Gene Austin’s 1926 hit “Bye Bye Blackbird,” transforming Garner’s “Like Someone in Love” into a sparkling swinger or offering a surprising performance of “The Way We Were” from the Barbra Streisand songbook, showcasing the depth of his musical sensibility. The trio’s live recording at Tokyo’s Gotanda Culture Center Music Hall imparts a genuine old-school session feel, underscoring the musical empathy between the seasoned musicians and highlighting that Yamamoto’s musicality and unique artistry continue to evolve and improve with time.

A Shade of Blue by the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio is available on 180-gram double vinyl LP, SACD – Hybrid Multi-Channel and MQA-CD on the 27th October 2023, and later in the year on MQA-CD + Blu-ray (Dolby Atmos + Stereo) and on an impeccably shot 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (Dolby Atmos / Auro /Stereo). The album will be made available on digital platforms on the 8th December 2023. Order it here.

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