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Atsuko Shimada Trio - Atsuko Shimada Trio and Guests, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017. Rating: 3-5 out of 5 "Excellent playing, engaging original compositions and imaginative arrangements". Ian Mann enjoys the music of the Atsuko Shimada Trio plus guest musicians Kevin Figes and Rod Paton.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

ATSUKO SHIMADA TRIO plus Guests KEVIN FIGES & ROD PATON, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017

In April 2015 the Japanese pianist and composer Atsuko Shimada visited Brecon Jazz Club at their former headquarters in the bar area at Theatr Brycheiniog. That performance saw Shimada leading a quintet of musicians drawn from South Wales and the Borders featuring guitarist Tom Ollendorff, saxophonist Greg Sterland, bassist Erika Lyons and drummer Phill Redfox O’Sullivan.

The quintet’s performance, comprised mainly of jazz and bebop standards but also including a smattering of Shimada originals, was very well received by the Brecon audience and it didn’t come as too much of a surprise to see her invited back for the town’s annual Jazz Festival.

It was to be busy weekend for Shimada who had also appeared with the Slice Of Jazz Big Band at the Castle Hotel the previous evening and was due to appear as part of a group co-led by multi-instrumentalist Ashley John Long and saxophonist Glen Manby the following day.

Born in Sapporo Shimada studied at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston before settling in Europe with her Spanish husband, fellow pianist and Berklee alumnus Juan Galiardo. Now living in Southern Spain she plays regularly at the Gibraltar Jazz Society’s regular Thursday night gigs at the colony’s Eliott’s Hotel and is also a respected music teacher.

Shimada initially came to Brecon due to Galiardo’s links with Brecon Jazz Club. In 2014 he visited Wales for a short tour in the company of his compatriot Arturo Serra (vibes) plus some of South Wales’ finest rhythm players.
Two performances from that tour,  club dates at Brecon and Abergavenny, are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

For today’s Festival performance at a packed out Guildhall the popular Shimada was joined by bassist Matheus Prado and drummer Paolo Adamo. Originally from Brazil Prado is now based in Cardiff where he is currently studying for a Masters degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). He was a visitor to Brecon Jazz Club in May 2017 as part of the Cardiff based group Ocasa performing a programme of Portuguese and Brazilian music.

Italian born,Bristol based Adamo is a highly accomplished and much in demand drummer who performs regularly on the jazz circuit in the South West of England and South Wales. He too, had previously visited Brecon Jazz Club as part of a trio led by American guitarist Jon Dalton and featuring John Paul Gard on organ. Others with whom Adamo has worked include saxophonist Joe Northwood, trumpeter Ben Thomas and violinist/vocalist Azhaar Saffar.

Today’s performance offered a similar mix of standards and originals to Shimada’s earlier club appearance. This time however the leader was to enjoy the benefits of performing on an acoustic piano rather than on an electric keyboard. The upright gracing the Guildhall stage may not have been the Steinway grand that Darius Brubeck is used to but it sounded fine to me and I didn’t hear any negative comments from other audience members. It was certainly an improvement on the electric models that Shimada played at her other two Festival appearances and helped to bring out the subtleties and nuances of her playing.

This afternoon show got off to a lively start with the trio’s rendition of Bobby Timmons’ infectious “Dat Dere” with engaging solos from Shimada and Prado. The Ocasa performance had seen Prado moving between acoustic and electric bass and cavaquinho. Today’s set offered greater evidence of how talented a jazz double bassist he is, an accomplished accompanist and an inventive and imaginative soloist.

The jazz standard “All Of Me” featured an innovative slowed down arrangement by Shimada that emphasised the level of interaction between the musicians with Shimada and Prado again featuring as soloists.

The ballad “Bera’s Waltz” was a charming Shimada original composition dedicated to the pianist’s three year old niece. Shimada and Prado again featured as soloists while Adamo impressed with his delicate and sympathetic brush work.

Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” immediately increased the energy levels and saw Shimada welcoming guest saxophonist Kevin Figes to the stage. Shimada revelled in the complexities of the piece with a vivacious solo and she was followed by Figes, whose alto took flight fuelled by the propulsive grooves laid down by Prado and Adamo.

Bristol based Figes, a prolific band leader in his own right with several recording to his name, stuck around for an adventurous Afro-Cuban arrangement of the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, sharing the solos with the increasingly expansive Shimada.

“We’ll Be Together Again” then cooled the fires with Adamo switching to brushes as Figes and Shimada again shared the solos.

The saxophonist then left the stage to facilitate two further performances of tunes in the piano trio format. Adamo’s unaccompanied drums ushered in a quirky arrangement of George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” that initially featured broken beats before reverting to a more conventional jazz swing during the course of Shimada’s solo. Prado also impressed with a supremely melodic bass solo.
Shimada’s arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive” then acted as a showcase for her highly accomplished piano playing.

The final tune of the set saw the core group expanded to a quintet with the addition of Figes on alto and second guest Rod Paton on french horn. Thus configured the group performed a Shimada original translating as “Doll’s Day”, a piece inspired by a set of dolls the composer had owned as a child. As at her club appearance Shimada handled all the announcements herself, charming her listeners with her halting English. As far as I could discern the dolls in question were similar to the more familiar Russian dolls.
The music itself began with a passage of unaccompanied piano with Shimada subsequently joined by Prado’s bass and Adamo’s filigree cymbal work. The combination of alto sax and french horn added substantial colour and texture to the music and framed solos from Paton, Figes, Shimada and Prado with Adamo delivering a subtly colourful drum feature above the cushioning textures of Paton’s french horn.

Sadly this was to be the final item of the performance, although it would have been good to have heard something else from the quintet line up. Shimada and her friends were given a great reception by the Guildhall crowd with several audience members getting to their feet to applaud.

The combination of Shimada’s excellent playing, engaging original compositions, imaginative arrangements and sunny personality have made a popular figure with Welsh jazz audiences. It would be good to see her return again, perhaps this time placing a greater emphasis on her original material. Also a recording under her leadership is long overdue.

Atsuko Shimada Trio and Guests, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.

Atsuko Shimada Trio

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Live Review

3-5 out of 5

Atsuko Shimada Trio and Guests, Brecon Jazz Festival 2017, The Guildhall, Brecon, 12/08/2017.
Photography: Photograph of Atsuko Shimada by Bob Meyrick.

"Excellent playing, engaging original compositions and imaginative arrangements". Ian Mann enjoys the music of the Atsuko Shimada Trio plus guest musicians Kevin Figes and Rod Paton.

BRECON JAZZ FESTIVAL 2017

ATSUKO SHIMADA TRIO plus Guests KEVIN FIGES & ROD PATON, THE GUILDHALL, BRECON, 12/08/2017

In April 2015 the Japanese pianist and composer Atsuko Shimada visited Brecon Jazz Club at their former headquarters in the bar area at Theatr Brycheiniog. That performance saw Shimada leading a quintet of musicians drawn from South Wales and the Borders featuring guitarist Tom Ollendorff, saxophonist Greg Sterland, bassist Erika Lyons and drummer Phill Redfox O’Sullivan.

The quintet’s performance, comprised mainly of jazz and bebop standards but also including a smattering of Shimada originals, was very well received by the Brecon audience and it didn’t come as too much of a surprise to see her invited back for the town’s annual Jazz Festival.

It was to be busy weekend for Shimada who had also appeared with the Slice Of Jazz Big Band at the Castle Hotel the previous evening and was due to appear as part of a group co-led by multi-instrumentalist Ashley John Long and saxophonist Glen Manby the following day.

Born in Sapporo Shimada studied at the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston before settling in Europe with her Spanish husband, fellow pianist and Berklee alumnus Juan Galiardo. Now living in Southern Spain she plays regularly at the Gibraltar Jazz Society’s regular Thursday night gigs at the colony’s Eliott’s Hotel and is also a respected music teacher.

Shimada initially came to Brecon due to Galiardo’s links with Brecon Jazz Club. In 2014 he visited Wales for a short tour in the company of his compatriot Arturo Serra (vibes) plus some of South Wales’ finest rhythm players.
Two performances from that tour,  club dates at Brecon and Abergavenny, are reviewed elsewhere on this site.

For today’s Festival performance at a packed out Guildhall the popular Shimada was joined by bassist Matheus Prado and drummer Paolo Adamo. Originally from Brazil Prado is now based in Cardiff where he is currently studying for a Masters degree at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama (RWCMD). He was a visitor to Brecon Jazz Club in May 2017 as part of the Cardiff based group Ocasa performing a programme of Portuguese and Brazilian music.

Italian born,Bristol based Adamo is a highly accomplished and much in demand drummer who performs regularly on the jazz circuit in the South West of England and South Wales. He too, had previously visited Brecon Jazz Club as part of a trio led by American guitarist Jon Dalton and featuring John Paul Gard on organ. Others with whom Adamo has worked include saxophonist Joe Northwood, trumpeter Ben Thomas and violinist/vocalist Azhaar Saffar.

Today’s performance offered a similar mix of standards and originals to Shimada’s earlier club appearance. This time however the leader was to enjoy the benefits of performing on an acoustic piano rather than on an electric keyboard. The upright gracing the Guildhall stage may not have been the Steinway grand that Darius Brubeck is used to but it sounded fine to me and I didn’t hear any negative comments from other audience members. It was certainly an improvement on the electric models that Shimada played at her other two Festival appearances and helped to bring out the subtleties and nuances of her playing.

This afternoon show got off to a lively start with the trio’s rendition of Bobby Timmons’ infectious “Dat Dere” with engaging solos from Shimada and Prado. The Ocasa performance had seen Prado moving between acoustic and electric bass and cavaquinho. Today’s set offered greater evidence of how talented a jazz double bassist he is, an accomplished accompanist and an inventive and imaginative soloist.

The jazz standard “All Of Me” featured an innovative slowed down arrangement by Shimada that emphasised the level of interaction between the musicians with Shimada and Prado again featuring as soloists.

The ballad “Bera’s Waltz” was a charming Shimada original composition dedicated to the pianist’s three year old niece. Shimada and Prado again featured as soloists while Adamo impressed with his delicate and sympathetic brush work.

Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” immediately increased the energy levels and saw Shimada welcoming guest saxophonist Kevin Figes to the stage. Shimada revelled in the complexities of the piece with a vivacious solo and she was followed by Figes, whose alto took flight fuelled by the propulsive grooves laid down by Prado and Adamo.

Bristol based Figes, a prolific band leader in his own right with several recording to his name, stuck around for an adventurous Afro-Cuban arrangement of the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, sharing the solos with the increasingly expansive Shimada.

“We’ll Be Together Again” then cooled the fires with Adamo switching to brushes as Figes and Shimada again shared the solos.

The saxophonist then left the stage to facilitate two further performances of tunes in the piano trio format. Adamo’s unaccompanied drums ushered in a quirky arrangement of George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” that initially featured broken beats before reverting to a more conventional jazz swing during the course of Shimada’s solo. Prado also impressed with a supremely melodic bass solo.
Shimada’s arrangement of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “How Insensitive” then acted as a showcase for her highly accomplished piano playing.

The final tune of the set saw the core group expanded to a quintet with the addition of Figes on alto and second guest Rod Paton on french horn. Thus configured the group performed a Shimada original translating as “Doll’s Day”, a piece inspired by a set of dolls the composer had owned as a child. As at her club appearance Shimada handled all the announcements herself, charming her listeners with her halting English. As far as I could discern the dolls in question were similar to the more familiar Russian dolls.
The music itself began with a passage of unaccompanied piano with Shimada subsequently joined by Prado’s bass and Adamo’s filigree cymbal work. The combination of alto sax and french horn added substantial colour and texture to the music and framed solos from Paton, Figes, Shimada and Prado with Adamo delivering a subtly colourful drum feature above the cushioning textures of Paton’s french horn.

Sadly this was to be the final item of the performance, although it would have been good to have heard something else from the quintet line up. Shimada and her friends were given a great reception by the Guildhall crowd with several audience members getting to their feet to applaud.

The combination of Shimada’s excellent playing, engaging original compositions, imaginative arrangements and sunny personality have made a popular figure with Welsh jazz audiences. It would be good to see her return again, perhaps this time placing a greater emphasis on her original material. Also a recording under her leadership is long overdue.


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