Saturday, December 6, 2014
Mariko Takahashi -- Uramado （裏窓）
Most songs tell a story. But there are few that I've heard that sound as if they were describing an actual movie. I was talking with my friend of 20 years' standing the other day about my favourite version of the Xmas song, "Winter Wonderland" by the amazing jazz pianist Marcus Roberts. I've heard various versions of that old chestnut but Roberts' take on it sounds like an entire Charlie Chaplin short including all of the crazy stunts that The Little Tramp whipped off. Another example is from the Japanese pop world, and it is also an Xmas tune: Junichi Inagaki's（稲垣潤一）"Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa." It was never meant to sound as such but I always hear it as the musical telling of a suspense/thriller movie....complete with all sorts of split-screen effects.
All of that first paragraph was just to set all of us up for Mariko Takahashi's（高橋真梨子）"Uramado". This torch song is relating a late-night tale with a film noirish attitude...Bogie and Bacall are meeting in a back alley dive after hours while Dooley Wilson is doodling away on the piano. And to add to the mood, the title translates as "Rear Window"....one of Alfred Hitchcock's legendary pictures, although "Uramado" is more 40s than 50s.
Akira Ito（伊東アキラ）wrote the lyrics about a woman who is pining for a lover with a dark past, although for whatever reason, he has decided to leave the affair. Bogie and Bacall indeed. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Kingo Hamada（濱田金吾）created the jazzy atmosphere with the piano and moody horns; I've listened to his BEST album, and he seems to switch between City Pop and jazz very comfortably.
However, the one who brings everything together is Mariko Takahashi herself. She sings "Uramado" as if she was born to slink across the top of the grand piano while her accompanist plays away. I'm not sure whether Takahashi had sung jazz publicly before this, but she sure shows that she has the chops, considering that she first started singing folk with Pedro and Capricious. Still I'm glad that she has been singing through a number of genres.
"Uramado" was a track on Takahashi's 3rd album, "Monologue"（モノローグ）, which came out in August 1980. I'm glad to have gotten this album since even in my last few years in Japan as a resident, it was becoming very difficult to find any of her earlier releases. As for the above video, it's actually a karaoke take on "Uramado"...a pretty good performance, too. I just wanted to have you listen to it in appropriate settings with the nightline of Hong Kong in the distance.
As a bit of a bonus, here is Marcus Roberts. I couldn't find his version of "Winter Wonderland", but he gives another bouncy performance through "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow".