An Old Friend Showed Up and I Listened; a Review of the Shoji Yokouchi Trio LP, Greensleeves

Greensleeves

One day in 1982, I dropped in at the Soundtrack in Auburn, AL. The owner, Mike Shotts, told me he had some new imports from a Japanese label, Three Blind Mice, that I had to hear. Three Blind Mice Records Is now a subsidiary of Sony Direct Japan. The LPs are manufactured and distributed by Impex Records. Since that day at Mike’s, I have owned many TBM LPs and CDs, but Greensleeves is without a doubt my favorite. Over time, I purchased and sold several of these LPs, and while I don’t remember selling the Greensleeves LP, I haven’t seen it since we move to the San Francisco Bay area in 2000.

This LP is a reissue of a numbered limited edition of 3,000 copies worldwide. It comes on a 180 Gram LP that is pressed at RTI, in California by Impex’s cutting engineer, Chris Bellman, and mastering engineer, Bernie Grundman. All of the mastering was from the original master tapes. The RTI pressing is utterly quiet allowing the music to explode or to delicately sneak into your room. I really think it’s a shame that it is a limited edition because this is an album that every jazz lover should have a chance to own a copy.

This LP features the Shoji Yokouchi Trio plus Yuri Tashiro on the Hammond B3 Organ, Kunimitsu Inaba on bass, Hajime Ishimatsu playing drums, and Shoji Yokouchi playing either the electric guitar, folk guitar, or gut guitar. These aren’t everyday names to American jazz lovers, but they combine to give us an exciting, bold, extremely dynamic and very emotionally involving musical performance. As far as I’m concerned, there are not enough albums that feature the Hammond B3 organ. Tashiro’s playing of the B3 is the heart and soul of this performance. In fact, all of the musicians are world class, and the overall album is beautifully recorded with wonderful harmonics that allowed me to hear the many layers and textures of the music.

The organ in this performance has deep powerful bass, but you can also hear the beautiful and delicate acoustic guitar playing. The bass riffs are powerful and the drums and cymbals are very realistic. The performance is mostly standards played with gusto and love. The guitar, drums, and bass are played superb, but it is her magnificent performance on the  Hammond B3 organ that makes the performance and the album very special.

The album starts with one of the most involving versions of “Willow Weep For Me” that I have ever heard, and this is followed by great interpretations of “Moanin'” and “Misty.” The B side has three incredible jazz interpretations of “New Orleans Sunday,” ” Greensleeves,” and “Your Watch Is Ten Minutes Slow.” If you are familiar with the TBI albums, Misty or Girl Talk, I should note that this LP is a much mellower sound and without that jazz piano that I find to be way too intense on those albums.

I don’t know about you, but in my life, few things live up to the expectations of my memory. I often go back to visit a town and head out to eat at what was my favorite restaurant, but after the meal is over, I’m disappointed. Though when a memory does live up to or exceeds my expectations, all I can say is WOW! This album is definitely a WOW!

 

 

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