Mika Yoshida and legendary drummer Steve Gadd team up on Mika's newest release, Mikarimba, an eclectic collection of joyful jazz tunes. Mika's beautiful Marimba playing is enhanced on this album by Gadd, renowned bassist Eddie Gomez and accomplished pianist Anders Wihk. The album is being distributed by BFM Digital, a leading digital music aggregator and distributor of independent music.
Mika and her band engage the listener with unique and original arrangements from classical tunes such as Beethoven's Pathetique, turning it into a 1970's funk groove, to jazz standards such as Chick Corea's Pixiland Rag. On The Duke, Mika, Gadd and Gomez have an enjoyable time connecting with listeners through their singing and scatting. This is music that without a doubt will put a smile on your face.
For those that may not know her, Mika Yoshida is a virtuoso classical marimbist who has performed solo recitals on many different stages including Carnegie Hall in New York as well as in Budapest, Toronto and Tokyo. She has performed with the world famous percussion ensemble NEXUS, Richard Stoltzman and composer Bill Douglas, and given clinic performances at PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention).
Mikarimba, Mika's third album release, is a "crossover" collaboration blending classical and jazz styles — reminicent of what French composer / jazz pianist, Claude Bolliing, started back in the mid-70's with his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano — and features a killer rhythm section with Steve Gadd (producer) on drums, and Eddie Gomez (associate producer) on bass.
The CD opens up with nice arrangement of the jazz standard, Take the "A" Train, with head of the tune being split between a quasi-reggae groove and straight-ahead swing.
Caravan, another jazz standard, is mid-tempo arrangement with Gadd playing a nice Nanigo/Bembe groove (feels great), and a wonderful bass solo by Gomez.
Chick Corea's Pixiland Rag is a perfect choice for this project. Mika's performance is relaxed as she weaves her polyrhythmic melodic lines wih a traditional ragtime feel. The style, which gained it's popularity on the xylophone, works very well with its mallet cousin, the marimba.
I first heard one of my favorite tunes from this CD, Morning Love (written by Eddie Gomez), on the Gadd Gang (1987) album. A beautifully lazy melody shared by the bass and marimba.
On Beethoven's Pathetique, the head of the tune is played over a light funk-rock feel, then breaks down into heavier reggae groove for bass and marimba solos. An enjoyable, creative arrangement.
Slangpolska, the name of a traditional Swedish folk dance, is an upbeat, march tune that breaks into one of those classic quasi-samba Gadd grooves that we've all come to love. The marimba again sits very nicely in this type of tune because of the articulant nature of the instrument.
Deborah's Theme is a short (two-minute) ballad with a harmonious melody performance between the piano and marimba.
The Duke, written by Steve Gadd, is probably the most amusing tune on the CD. Not only is there a great feel throughout (that's a given with Gadd/Gomez), but the bouncy melody, later played by the marimba, is first introduced, via scatting, by Gadd. Mika joins Steve towards the end of the tune as they both scat-sing the melody line with the marimba. This is definitely one of my favorites from the CD.
Sicily, another Chick Corea composition, again suits the marimba very nicely.
Gadd About (can you guess who wrote this?) is a funky, R&B sounding tune, with a nostalgic Fender Rhodes (think Richard Tee) presence, mixed with another great Gadd groove. The marimba and rhodes sound great together.
Glasgow Boogie ... an Irish shuffle?! Really, really nice feel and arrangement.
Strength is another Steve Gadd composition that I first heard on the Gadd Gang album. Great tune and arrangement with Gadd scat-singing, and a call/response section between the marimba and rhodes.
Tico Tico, written in 1917 by Brazilian composer, Zequinha de Abreu, is another tune that works very well for marimba. While I really like this arrangement, I was hoping (and expecting) something more uptempo to contrast all of the moderate tempo tunes on the CD. However the last tune on the disc, Voulez Vous, is an uptempo samba, so perhaps it was a producer decision which I completely understand.
I think Mikarimba is a fun album; a perfect choice for percussion fans and chamber music lovers.
On a side note ... Mika also released a live DVD, Marimba Madness, in early 2010 that features Gadd, Gomez and Peter John Stoltzman on piano.