I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Yoshiko Kishino -- Jenga

What's not to love about Jenga? There is the suspense aspect to it trying to stack as much of those weird pieces on top of each other without having the whole thing collapse and then there is the comedy part of it when it does fall with that sense of catharsis afterwards. It is popular in Japan and I'm fairly confident that it has been used in many a bonenkai in December.

I just wouldn't have realized that the actual word would be used as a title for a lovely mellow instrumental as this one by jazz pianist Yoshiko Kishino(木住野佳子). Yes, this track is apparently titled "Jenga" and is a track on her 1997 album "Rendez-Vous". I had never heard of her until a few nights ago when I came across this nice number.

"Jenga" is very pleasant to hear and I get this sudden craving for an Orange Mimosa. In fact, I also get some reminders of some of what Pat Metheny has done in the past. But although Kishino has been identified as a jazz pianist on J-Wiki, I don't think this particular track here would qualify as jazz per se. It's probably more along the lines of Smooth Jazz which is why I've categorized it as a J-AOR tune.

As for Kishino herself, she actually shares the same birthday as myself although five years older and hails from Tokyo. She made her debut in 1986 and has released about 17 albums ranging from 1995 to 2015.

One of the amazing things about Japanese music stores is that the genre of Western AOR (or is it called Yacht Rock now?) still has a large representation on the shelves. Folks like Steely Dan, Christopher Cross and the late Nicolette Larson could conceivably be on those shelves, and that would include Smooth Jazz folks. I mean, I've come across artists that I had never heard before since I collected a few of these compilations, and one of those folks was a lady by the name of Jaye P. Morgan who I had only known as a perennial game show panelist in the 1970s on American TV, notably on "The Gong Show".

I'm not sure what it is but the Japanese have certainly loved their AOR/Smooth Jazz, certainly during my time there. However, I'm not sure if Smooth Jazz can really be called a subset of jazz. I read a textbook on jazz once and the author mentioned that there were a few qualifications for a song to be classified as a jazz number. Two of them were syncopation and improvisation. Although I do like my fair share of Smooth Jazz, I don't think those qualifications are met here.

Perhaps it's the same thing as calling that certain brand of music Yacht Rock, knowing full well it isn't rock. Smooth Jazz may not be real jazz but at least on hearing the term, I know what I'm getting. Well, I'm open for any opinions on this.

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