Reading through Marcos V's fine article on Arashi's（嵐）fun "Miracle Summer", I started thinking about what I could contribute as one of the first summer-themed songs for this year. After all, it looks the season has decided to jump the gun and land on Toronto a bit early in 2015 (although we're supposed to be plummeting 10 degrees over the weekend...c'est la T.O.), and I'm somewhat sweltering in my room as I write this.
Well, I was playing one of the videos on the article for Yurie Kokubu's（国分友里恵）"Relief 72 Hours" after reading nikala's article on the singer's "I Wanna Be With You", when another video popped up by former jazz singer Kimiko Kasai（笠井紀美子）. It was for "Vibration" from 1977 which had this Cleo Laine vibe going on, and since I saw her record cover for "Tokyo Special" on that YouTube video and in "Japanese City Pop", I was intrigued enough to take a further look at her discography.
So by fortunate happenstance, I came across "Natsu no Hajime no Image" (First Image of Summer), and was instantly smitten by the nice and pleasant light funk of it all. It's fine for sunset listening, especially on a summery day like it was today here. I kinda knew I was in for some aural relaxation as soon as I heard the opening notes of that laid-back waka-waka from the guitar, the rippling keyboards and the smooth strings. The song was also a track on that 1977 "Tokyo Special", and according to the Japanese music blog, "Music Avenue", it was composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi（筒美京平）and written by the late Kazumi Yasui (安井かずみ...she provided the lyrics for all of the songs on the album).
As I mentioned above, Kasai was a jazz singer who got her start in the 1960s before going solo with "Just Friends" in 1970, and then going on to work "...with some of the most renowned musicians in the jazz field, such as Billy Higgins, Mal Waldron, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Oliver Nelson, and Herbie Hancock." (thank you, Wikipedia). However, she has also released albums in the AOR and fusion genres of which "Tokyo Special" is one.
Kasai retired from singing several years ago and is currently a jewel designer. One other interesting point that I found out about her is that she has been married to musician Richard Rudolph who was once married to the late Minnie Ripperton and is the father of actress-comedienne Maya Rudolph from "Saturday Night Live" fame.