Taeko Kunishima plays ‘Dictionary Land’

Pianist Taeko Kunishima was a long-term resident in both Japan and London and is now based in West Wales. Her trademark lyricism is found again on her fifth album release, Dictionary Land. Taeko has newly composed eight beautiful pieces, in a thoughtful, melodic vein. Her music shifts elegantly from melody to improvisation and sometimes starting with the waves and a song thrush or a train over a bridge in Japan, created by Jeremy Hawkins’ field recordings, and at the ending again. She had long absence from music activity in her youth due to living in the Middle East and few years after in London. Her compositions reflect the emotional experience of the diverse cultures.

Dictionary Land is, above all, a fusion album bringing together, as it does influences from classical, eastern, and middle-eastern music with undertones of jazz. The title track focuses more on the contemporary classical sound and highlights just how important the playing of bassist Paul Moylan is to the overall sound of seven of the eight tracks (track eight being a solo piano piece).

‘White Whale’ starts with the sound of the sea, provided by the field recordings of Jeremy Hawkins. The melody is introduced by Clive Bell on the gloriously toned Shakuhachi flute with the tabla playing of Camilo Tirado gives the tune its Indian colour, with the piano of Taeko Kunishima adding the lightest of contemporary jazz touches. This is all done at a sedately elegant pace allowing the listener to absorb the sounds produced. ‘Random Thought In The Dark’ begins with the sound of a Japanese train, which brings its own rhythm into to play. Stylistically there is little change from the previous track but there are subtle stabs of energy that stand out from the central theme and once again the delicate jazz piano lines add a tonal quality that maintained my engagement with piece.

‘Image And Space’ is clearly influenced by the music of the middle east and also gives the listener the first opportunity to hear the vocal sound of Francesca-Ter-Berg. Once again Paul Moylan carries the melody with some exceptional bowed bass playing with the sparse piano lines lifting the mood of the tune. ‘Corvidae’, through the playing of the Shakuhachi flute, has a dark feel and is only lightened when Kunishima adds the voice of her piano to the piece. The track begins and ends with the sound of crows, which can signify the end of one phase and the beginning of a new: out of the dark and into the light – and how you interpret that is for you to reflect on.

‘Love and Peace’ starts with a lovely blend of piano, percussion and a vocal. As with other tracks, this number plays at a steady slow pace and in many ways comes across as a poetic performance piece. This is definitely a track to get lost in and I very much enjoyed it. ‘Dialogue With Solitude’ opens with what sounds like a phone call in Japanese, which then segues into the beautiful sounding Shakuhachi flute of Clive Bell. There is a sinister cinematic feel to this track, which I rather enjoyed.

‘La Mer et La Rose’ is the final track of the album and is played solo by Taeko Kunishima. As with the other tracks on this album nothing is hurried, every note has its place and there is a place for each note used. There are jazz undertones to this track, and indeed the album as a whole, but this is not a jazz album. Dictionay Land is a collection of well crafted and interlinked tunes that draw together a number of influences and blends them in such a way as to make them sound as though they have always belonged together. The music is beautiful and the playing of it sublime and I thank Taeko Kunishima for bringing it to my attention.

Musicians: Taeko Kunishima – piano; Paul Moylan – double bass; Camilo Tirado – tabla & percussion; Clive Bell – Shakuhachi flute; Francesca-Ter-Berg – vocals

Field recording are provided by Jeremy Hawkins.

Tracklist: 1. Dictionary Land. 2. White Whale. 3. Random Thought in the Dark. 4. Image and Space. 5. Corvidae. 6. Love and Peace. 7. Dialogue with Solitude. 8. La Mer et La Rose.

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